Saturday, June 11, 2011

Saturday Musings, 11 June 2011

Good morning,

I sit awaiting plenary session, watching over a thousand lawyers stagger, wander and saunter into the room in various stages of comparative alertness. Coffee does not seem to be in evidence, which astonishes me as much as does the unconcerned reaction of the hotel staff to the apparent theft of my Blackberry. As the lone hold-out on the Planning Committee in the up-vote for Branson, I am beginning to relent.

I continue to rejoice in the annual phenomenon of seeing people whom I consider solid friends despite the gap between meetings. Familiar faces and voices around each corner warm my heart and remind me of the strength and joy to be found in the act of belonging. It must be said that I have never experienced a sense of communal acceptance as deep and abiding as I do when I among the Solo and Small Firm lawyers of the Missouri Bar, including among my families of birth and choice. When asked why I attend this conference to the exclusion of one focusing exclusively on my practice area, I inevitably answer with the only certain truth: These are my people.

Solo and small firm attorneys share a bent that transcends practice focus. That bent flavors our choice of clients, office-mates and staff. It guides the type of organization in which we matriculate, and the extra-curricular activities that we enjoy. We are unique. We sink or swim on the strength of our personalities and our devotion to independence, something that would actually detract from our effectiveness in many larger organizations. We are individualists, and we applaud the other solitary frogs in our pond.

The speaker takes the podium and begins his humorous narration, the chuckles starting slowly at first, but sure to build. My mind unquestionably wanders, thinking of my son asleep in a tent in Manchester, Tennessee, on the grounds of a rock festival. That I cannot text him to check on his welfare due to the theft of my phone troubles me less than it might have; perhaps I have begun to trust him, despite my apprehensions, in spite of my conviction, based upon my own youth, that folly hovers just outside the perimeter of his daily voyage.

Last night, our last evening on the patio -- not just for this conference, but forever, due to our impending relocation to Branson -- I sat against the hard metal of my chair and watched the gleaming faces of people whom I have grown to respect and even regard with a deep measure of affection. I think about the shifts in each of their lives over the last twelve months: marriages, divorces, realignment of practices, births, the departure of children from the family fold. I see the sheen of grey, more prevalent on some heads than twelve months ago; the deepened lines on faces; the slight droop that none of us can keep gravity from visiting on our physiques. I see, too, the gold-shirted gaggle of law students, who seem to carry the bucket of enthusiasm that once was the happy burden of my generation.

The lesson of the sixteen years that the Solo and Small Firm Committee of the Missouri Bar has been gathering to learn and share transcends the confines of our profession. That lesson speaks -- or should speak -- to everyone. The human experience cannot be successfully pursued in isolation. Navigating from birth to death without alliances can be done, but not without substantial loss of the richness and complexity of being that cannot be developed alone.

The speaker seems to have taken longer than I would have expected to reach his core message, the directive to "give until it helps". I like that thought, and I hear that he has now reached this part of his speech. And so, I will close, with a simple and short message to my friends -- on this list, and elsewhere. We have survived another year. In fact, it appears that some of us have actually thrived. For anyone who has taken two steps backward for every one step forward, I offer the hope that the next twelve months will hold opportunities to dance a little bit faster, or with a more adept partner, or to more beautiful music.

Jim Brady, Executive Director of the Missouri Bar's Lawyer Assistance Program, spoke about avoiding "doom and gloom" in difficult times. He invited those in attendance to embrace "eudaimonia", which loosely translates to the art of flourishing. That suggestion struck me as a timely one, and so, with thanks to Mr. Brady, I share it with you. I invite you to embrace the future, and to flourish.

I'll see you all next year, in Branson.

Mugwumpishly tendered,

Corinne Corley

P.S. To folks who read this who are not on the Small Firm Internet Group, my simple apologies that my musings this week speak to my brothers and sisters at the Bar. These Musings grew out of a weekly reflection that I post to the SFIG, the listserve of the Solo and Small Firm Committee of the Missouri Bar. Our annual conference occurs every year at this time, and I am attending the last plenary session of it as I write. My musings this week therefore naturally dwell on these people, my colleagues and my friends.

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The Missouri Mugwump™

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I've been many things in my life: A child, a daughter, a friend; a wife, a mother, a lawyer and a pet-owner. I've given my best to many things and my worst to a few. I live in Brookside, in an airplane bungalow. I'm an eternal optimist and a sometime-poet. If I ever got a poem published in The New Yorker, I would die a happy woman. I'm a proud supporter of the Arts in Kansas City. I vote Democrat, fly the American flag, cry at Hallmark commercials, and recycle.