Maryland Bar Bulletin
Publications : Bar Bulletin : January 2006

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MSBA Lawyer Assistance Program

"Ten Work/life Principles of a Highly Successful Man and Lawyer"
By Carol P. Waldhauser

Every morning I wake up in pain. I wiggle my toes. Good. They still obey. I open my eyes. Good. I can see. Everything hurts but I get dressed. I walk down to the ocean. Good. It's still there. Now my day can start. About tomorrow, I never know. After all, I'm 89. I can't live forever

- Anonymous

It was a cold, blustery afternoon as I knocked on the door of a sole practitioner's country law office. This anticipated meeting being the direct result of an attorney's call to me regarding issues on retirement. As the door opened, I was greeted with a warm smile from a vivacious 82-year-old man. His name was John Doe, Esquire.

John invited me to have a seat in his small but toasty and bright two-room office. As we began to chat, it immediately dawned on me that on this December afternoon I was about to embark on a compelling as well as compassionate account of a successful man and a successful attorney. I realized, too, that John was an individual who could teach us all about surviving life, maintaining a successful law practice and aging with grace and wisdom. His story was truly an invigorating celebration of courage and stamina.

John Doe was born in 1922 to middle-class parents in an eastern-Pennsylvania steel town. He lived through the perils of growing up in the Great Depression. Upon graduation from college, John answered Uncle Sam's call by joining the Army, and he soon found himself an infantry soldier on the shores of Omaha Beach, fighting the Nazis and liberating France. With a lot of prayers, luck and his strong steel-town upbringing, John survived this ordeal. He was discharged successfully from the Army and returned to Pennsylvania, where he married his high school sweet-heart.

Soon thereafter, the couple left Pennsylvania for Maryland. John decided on a professional career in the law and chose to attend law school in Baltimore. After a grueling schedule of working full-time and attending school at night, he passed the Maryland Bar in 1953. A humble man by nature, John credits his mentors for their advice that he set up a practice in country.

In any event, both John's personal and professional lives soon flourished. In fact, as the years passed, the good times seemed to outweigh the bad. John was truly living the American Dream. He certainly was at the right place at the right time! John's son even went on to attended law school, and he began to practice with his Dad.

Through the seasons (and years), as John's life unfolded, there were hard turns and some dead-ends; but with the support of his family and peers John maneuvered the storms successfully. During one period in his life, however, this was particularly difficult. John's son was diagnosed with and subsequently died of cancer. One cannot begin to imagine the pain and suffering of losing your only child. Nevertheless, John carried his troubles like a heavy load and continued to work while dealing with his grief. With the support of his family and friends, John eventually worked through his grief, started to heal and began to encourage others to do the same.

We often hear lawyers referred to as problem-solvers. However, it is important to realize that even if a lawyer is highly successful in treating a client's dilemma, it is often difficult for the professional to address his/her own problems. I often refer to this as the "shoemaker syndrome", recalling the story of the shoemaker who had time to fix everyone else's shoes but his own.

Conversely, John found the tools and skills to deal with traumatizing life events while continuing a successful life and practice. I asked John how he had survived such ordeals and while maintaining his own health and stamina through his 50-plus years of practicing law. In response, he offered the following advice from a very old card that was affixed to his wall:

bullet Take Time to Think: It is the source of power.
bullet Take Time to Play: It is the secret of perpetual youth.
bullet Take Time to Read: It is the fountain of wisdom.
bullet Take Time to Pray: It is the greatest power on earth.
bullet Take Time to Love and Be Loved: It is a God-given privilege.
bullet Take Time to Be Friendly: It is the road to happiness.
bullet Take Time to Laugh: It is the music of the soul.
bullet Take Time to Give: It is too short a day to be selfish.
bullet Take Time to Work: It is the price of success.

And remember: Life is a long and bumpy road. We each carry our troubles, like a heavy load. There are many hard turns and some dead-ends, but whenever we are stuck, we must try again!

After our visit, I left John's office with gratitude and a renewed spirit. Of course, we have planned subsequent meetings until such time as John closes his practice. With encouragement, however, I hope that John continues to give back to the profession that he has so actively pursued, without a single grievance, for more than 50 years. Similarly, John may not live forever (or practice law in all of the years to come), but it is clearly evident that he still has so much to offer his beloved profession. As a mentor, John has the enormous experience, wisdom and grace to teach us all about the profession and how to age with grace and wisdom.

For more information about retirement, work/life and other issues, contact call the MSBA'S Lawyer Assistance Program at (410) 685-7878, or e-mail

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Publications : Bar Bulletin: January 2006

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