I know that most of you have taken this class seriously and are taking law school seriously. I want to encourage you to continue to do that…because after you graduate and pass the bar and are working out there in the world as attorneys, people will come to you with their lives in a shambles. They will come to you seeking assistance and guidance and counsel. You will be in a unique position to help them. Please do.
It was clear from the delivery, halting and with her voice quaking a bit at times, that this was something she had thought about a great deal. It helped, of course, that she was an exceptional professor. Still, as we left the classroom afterward, there were students giggling a bit about her speech.
Having once been a teacher, I was not among them. I always wondered — and worked hard at — what I should say to my students on their last day in my class. It usually amounted to something like, “It’s been fun, gentlemen. Don’t be strangers. See you around.” Not nearly as good as I usually anticipated and not nearly as meaningful as the speech from my professor. Yet I console myself with the fact that my students were all teenagers who were either moving up a grade or champing at the bit to get out of high school.
My professor’s words were brought home fairly recently at a time when I failed to live up to the ideal she outlined. I was sitting on a bench outside the courtroom on a landlord-tenant docket talking to tenants and otherwise hurrying along to get finished with my cases so that I could get back to the office. I was not at my most attentive.
Suddenly, someone next to me on the bench interrupted me. I asked him for his case number. He didn’t understand and gave me a blank look. I asked him again. No, he told me, he just needed a pen. A pen? He had some paper for court, he said, but no pen. Could he have one. Have one?
I felt my breast pocket and realized that the only two pens I had in there were what I considered “good pens” — new, full of ink and easy to grip. I told him I didn’t have a pen to spare. He thanked me and moved on, I assumed, to look elsewhere for a pen.
I quickly forgot about it. I went back to speaking to tenants and when the judge came on the bench, I filed into the courtroom with everyone else. I was sitting in the back of the courtroom checking my email on my phone, half-listening as the cases were called, when the man who had asked me for a pen earlier rose and walked to the table for tenants in the front of the room. I put my phone away and listened. It turned out that he was being sued by his ex-wife because he would not vacate the marital home, which she received in their divorce.
I put my hand on the outside of my suit jacket and felt the outline of the two pens in my pocket I had been unwilling to give him. I think that my professor was right — as attorneys, people come to us all the time whose lives are in a shambles.
I carry a box of new pens in my litigation bag now.
(Photo: Fountain Pen Network)