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Why Do We Do This?
by Mark Gehan
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There are probably three or four times a year when I have so many things coming due more or less simultaneously that I wonder whether they will all get done. Somehow I survive these stretches and I come out at the other end feeling as if I have dodged a bullet.
There are other times when my practice is slow. I worry that I haven't opened a good file recently. I begin to think about "marketing."
A lot of the time I spend at my desk is occupied with mundane matters. I talk to clients and other lawyers, trying to salvage as much billable time as possible. I work my files up and talk to witnesses. I believe that most lawyers' lives are roughly similar to mine. A lot of what we do is not "particularly fun," and there are aspects of what we do that are very stressful. I am certain that my practice is not unique. Most lawyers, like me, ask themselves, "Why am I doing this?"
I can think of several reasons why we do this. For one thing, a lot of what we do is creative. We identify and solve problems. Okay, sometimes they are silly problems, but we get to use our creative abilities in a generally non-repetitive manner.
Another thing we occasionally get to do is hit a home run. They don't come too often, but we have the occasional satisfaction of knowing that we did a superb job on something.
The overwhelming majority of other lawyers we rub elbows with are honorable and smart, and many of them even have a sense of humor about the human condition. It makes a big difference to me in my daily life that I don't feel surrounded by vipers.
Finally, there is the satisfaction we get from providing service to our clients. We use our legal skills on behalf of others. We represent them in a transaction or an adversarial proceeding. We are seeking truth, justice, and, well, you know ... .
MARK W. GEHAN of St. Paul is president of the MSBA. A partner in the firm of Collins, Buckley, Sauntry & Haugh, he received his J.D. from the University of Minnesota Law School and recently served as special master in the historic Minnesota tobacco litigation.