Editor's Corner, 1119 ALBJ, 80 The Alabama Lawyer 424 (2019)

AuthorW. Gregory Ward, J.
PositionVol. 80 6 Pg. 424


Vol. 80 No. 6 Pg. 424

Alabama Bar Lawyer

November, 2019

W. Gregory Ward, J.

Few issues of The Alabama Lawyer have created as much pre-publication buzz as this one, the wellness issue.

Our Alabama State Bar President Christy Crow was talking about lawyer wellness even before she took office. That set us thinking, and that set us listening. Not just noting what people said, but really listening. We heard lawyers talking about how tough their lives were-when you begin listening it is surprising how often this comes up-and just how many of them have lost fellow lawyers to suicide. Me, too.

We moved from listening to initiating conversations. The stories were amazing. At least twice I heard stories about how a lawyer objected to a case being continued after some person involved in the trial died. I recalled an old story about a federal judge who, when a jury trial began, would not let out-of-town lawyers go home for the Thanksgiving holidays. We heard many stories about judges who, forgetful of where they came from and how powerful their voices are, become more abrasive than perhaps they realize. I heard a heartbreaking story about a lawyer in a juvenile case who argued that a child be sent home to a mother who was a long-term drug user, whose life was basically destroyed by her addiction, and who was high on methamphetamine during the court hearing.

With stories like those, no wonder we are stressed. No wonder wellness is a problem.

What happened to us? Where is our humanity? No wonder we are stressed. No wonder we are dissatisfied.

And all too often, all too many lawyers came to a very telling conclusion: I'd never want my son or daughter to do this for a living.

I love this profession. I love lawyers. That broke my heart.

We are taught to fight to win at all costs, and that the fight itself is our ethical duty. We call it zealous advocacy. There has to be a better way to say that. Shallow thinking on this reduces us to mere zealots, and do we really want to be counted among their number? We've shredded real ethics and common sense over our misunderstanding and misapplication of that term. We call it our duty; could it be our downfall?

How about this: how about we shift our internal focus from "Fight to win!" to "Fight to help!"? Subtle shift, that, yet profound. And how about while we are doing that we reclaim some of our humanity-from top to bottom...

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