Lunch Time and Lawyers

 In Office Practice is Life Practice

Never would I think that sitting around the conference table at my office having lunch with three lawyers would be a highlight of my day. It’s either a very sad commentary on the state of my life or it says a lot about my law firm. Happily it’s the latter.

When I am at lunch, the last thing I want to do is talk shop. Correction: When I am at lunch, the last thing I want to do is be with lawyers. It’s not that I don’t like lawyers. It’s that being surrounded by the law for 8-9 hours a day with no breaks does not make me a happy boy. It tires me out. It drains me. It makes me feel like a zombie. I come home feeling lobotomized. My wife has to bring out the defibrillator to bring me back to life.

I need to be reminded throughout the day that there is more to what I do and who I am than being a lawyer, or I run the risk of getting into that “law machine” mode. I like what I do, but I am made better by taking breaks outside of the office. I learned this from my dad. When I was a kid visiting at his office, he would always take me out for coffee.

I know my dad still takes coffee breaks to this day. He is 80 years old and still practicing! I’m thankful that he made it part of his daily practice of law, because it’s now part of mine. It helps me see, understand and connect with everyone in the office in a different way. Talking with my legal assistance or another attorney in my office is not the same as having fettuccine with clams and mussels at the small family owned Italian restaurant across the street.

It does more than happily fill my belly. It fills a part of me that is not usually satisfied at the office. It allows those relationships to be more multi dimensional. Experiences outside of the normal office routine do that for me. I hope it does for the other person as well.

But back to sitting around the conference table having lunch. What made it a highlight was not the food- although the Korean Twist tacos from a nearby food cart were good. It’s because of the spirit of why we gather together. We don’t simply talk shop. We are helping each other be better lawyers. We are taking the time for one another.

I walked into the lunch with a case and a particular problem that I could not figure out how to solve. I went over the facts and issues. I walked out of the lunch with answers I could not come up with on my own.

What made me so happy was not just that an answer was found, but what happens when we gather to help one another. We share our expertise. Each one of us brings a different view. Like witnesses to an event, each one see’s something different. Creative ideas are forged. All of the elements are there that allows something greater than the individual pieces could have made.

To be part of this creative forging, my friends, brings great happiness- even around a conference table with a bunch of lawyers having lunch.

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  • Juli Upton

    I have found over the past 28 years of practicing law, that many lawyers have a creative side that is left unattended,including myself. Before law school, I spent much time painting outdoors and wildlife scenes. I had showings. In my third year of law school, I wrote a book as an outlet and obtained a NY agent and had an offer from Ballentine for a trilogy, but all stopped to get a job and begin another sort of practice: the law. I told myself that when I retire, I will write again.

    Recently, I decided to try indulging that creative side and began a senior newspaper. The first issue came out in September with 2,000 copies and now my husband and I publish 15,000 copies each month. The website traffic is from all over the world. During the day, I take a break here and there to do historical research on Oregon and on the way, I have not only learned much but expressed myself in a strictly non-lawyer fashion. Another outlet, whether it be art or sports, meeting someone for lunch or calling your aging parent, or even taking another class at the local college does remind us of who we really are and, along the way, is incredibly satisfying, calming. and humbling.

    A local judge once told me in my early practice to plant a garden and watch it grow, and then harvest what you have made. He said law is not like that because it seems that there is never a true ending. Your criminal clients come back. Your injured folks get in another car accident. Sometimes it seems like nothing is really final – but if you can see something, hold it, turn it in your hands and see its completion – that satisfies the soul.

    Juli Upton

  • Jim Dwyer

    If I am not careful it is too easy to primarily identify myself as a lawyer. It can be very demanding work.

    I love practicing, but I am more than that. It’s important is to be aware of the passions that reside in us and to our best ability allow them to be expressed through our lives.

    I love the work you are doing Juli. It truly makes you a better person and lawyer.

  • Jacke Schroeder

    It’s wonderful hearing your heart’s “voice” here. I miss those lunches with you in SW PDX!!!

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