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