Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Pride in My Work

I'm afraid this post isn't motivated by the best of intentions, being motivated as it is by my own pride and conceit. Nevertheless, here it is. I hope you'll forgive this exercise in indulging my own pride.

Every so often, some drive-by commenter will happen by this blog and disagree either with something I've written or with my overall perspective and, rather than address that with which he or she disagrees, will engage in ad hominem commentary. That commentary generally takes one of two forms. The first and most prevalent type of ad hominem attack comes in the form of personal and disparaging remarks about my family. The second type of ad hominem will hone in on this line from my "About Me" profile ...
"Having practiced law for a few years, I now work as a Senior Legal Analyst for a worldwide legal publisher."
... and will infer from this that I "couldn't cut it as a lawyer" or that I am a "failure".

My rule is to delete such ad hominems without comment. Attacks against my personal life are treated with the dismissal they deserve - my family is off limits to negative commentary, and I will not give satisfaction to the attacker by trying to defend those I love against such hate-filled personal nonsense. Attacks against my professional life are treated the same way.

Nevertheless, my own pride causes me to bristle at the notion that I am somehow a "failure" or that I "couldn't cut it" in the legal profession. I take great pride in my work and in doing a good job at whatever I do. I have had the fortune of being successful at almost everything that I've set my mind to, and I dismiss any notion that suggests that I did poorly at any job that I've held.

Yes, okay, it's pride. I DO take pride in my work and in being the best I can be. So, out of such pride, I'm going to provide some background on how I got to be where I am professionally.

When I graduated from the University of Virginia School of Law, I returned to Dallas and immediately went to work as an associate at one of the largest law firms in Texas. I was good at what I did, and got a lot of courtroom experience for being such a young attorney. The partners for whom I worked entrusted me with a great deal of responsibility and were laudatory of my efforts. I have no doubt that if I had chosen to continue practicing law, I would still be with that same firm and making a LOT of money as a successful partner.

But it just wasn't for me. Despite being good at what I did, I didn't enjoy it. Long hours and travel kept me away from home and family. The money was good. The fancy office was nice. The accolades of peers and the prestige of being an attorney at one of the most highly respected firms in Dallas was heady. But, for me, family comes first, and I was spending almost no time at home.

I had never intended on practicing law when I went to law school - I wanted to get involved in politics (high student loan debt helped push me in the direction of the large law firm, however). Furthermore, I was convinced that I needed to find a slower pace in a smaller locale so that I could spend more time at home with my family. My father's heart attack (which he survived) during my second year of practice, a family history of grandparents dying young from heart attacks, and a fellow attorney at the firm who had to retire in his early-to-mid-30s after having open-heart surgery, further convinced me to seek out a less stressful career and more leisure time at home with family.

I moved back to the Charlottesville, Virginia area, where I had spent 3 years while in law school, and found a job where I could continue to use my legal skills and background working for a legal publisher. It was at this time that I was elected Mayor of Columbia, a position in which I served for 7 years before leaving to move to Norwalk, Ohio. You can read the story of how we came to make that move shortly after our becoming Catholic here. Every move I've made personally and professionally has been to achieve what's in the best interest of my faith and family.

In conclusion, if wanting a slower-paced lifestyle in a smaller community for the sake of my family, my health, and my faith means I'm a "failure" who "couldn't cut it", then I'll take that sort of "failure" every time. I'm certainly much happier with the life I have now (struggling from paycheck to paycheck to make ends meet) than I ever was while practicing law and raking in the big bucks. I know my family is much happier with Daddy at home than they would've been with Daddy always at the office or on the road.


UPDATE (also posted in comments)
A real-life story, which also offers an interesting view into the mindset of "enlightened liberals":

One day several years ago, when we still lived in Virginia, I was walking down Charlottesville's "Downtown Mall" (a street that has been bricked over, closed to traffic, and turned into an artsy shopping and restaurant district), and I ran into one of my favorite professors from UVA law school - a world-renowned constitutional scholar (you can probably figure out who it is based on that info).

He asked me what I had been doing with my life since law school. I told him that I had practiced law with a large firm in Dallas for a number of years before chucking it all and moving back to Virginia for a slower-paced lifestyle. I told him that I was Mayor of Columbia and a legal analyst at the legal publisher in town. My professor's countenance dropped - going from smile to a look of puzzlement as, I'm sure, he wondered why anyone would "waste" such a "fine education" from a top-10 law school.

His response (with a laugh and a smile to soften the insult): "I guess it beats panhandling in the streets."

Okay, that's not the worst of it. His wife, who was with him, pointed out to him that we just so happened to be standing next to a guy sitting on the ground ... (wait for it) ... panhandling. The couple slunk off in embarassment.

I laughed out loud. They were more concerned that they may or may not have insulted a perfect stranger "panhandling in the streets" than they were about the fact that my now former favorite professor had just insulted his former student's career choice. Oh well, at least they exhibited a "preferential option for the poor".

The only thing that could have made it any funnier would have been if they had dropped a dollar in the guy's hat out of guilt as they slunk away.


Previous Pro Ecclesia posts on this subject:
A Few Groundrules for Commenting at This Blog

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6 Comments:

At 3/04/2008 10:06 PM, Blogger Donald R. McClarey said...

Jay, I salute you! I have spent the past 26 years as a small town lawyer. I have an active practice but I am able to come home most days for lunch, my weekends are free for my family, and I am usually home by 5:30 PM. I could earn quite a bit more in a large city, but, like you, family for me comes first. Success without family happiness is merely a mispelling of failure.

 
At 3/04/2008 10:09 PM, Blogger Christopher said...

Salutations, Jay -- and God bless for keeping your priorities straight and for not letting anybody tell you otherwise.

 
At 3/05/2008 6:56 AM, Blogger Rick Lugari said...

Ditto Don and Christopher. It's a shame that on a Catholic blog a father has to defend himself for having made his family a priority. Oh well, this isn't the world in which we wish to conform ourselves anyway...

 
At 3/05/2008 7:37 AM, Blogger Jay Anderson said...

Thanks, guys.

A real-life story, which also offers an interesting view into the mindset of "enlightened liberals":

One day several years ago, when we still lived in Virginia, I was walking down Charlottesville's "Downtown Mall" (a street that has been bricked over, closed to traffic, and turned into an artsy shopping and restaurant district), and I ran into one of my favorite professors from UVA law school - a world renown constitutional scholar (you can probably figure out who it is based on that info).

He asked me what I had been doing with my life since law school. I told him that I had practiced law with a large firm in Dallas for a number of years before chucking it all and moving back to Virginia for a slower-paced lifestyle. I told him that I was Mayor of Columbia and a legal analyst at the legal publisher in town. My professor's countenance dropped - going from smile to a look of puzzlement as, I'm sure, he wondered why anyone would "waste" such a "fine education" from a top-10 law school.

His response (with a laugh and a smile to soften the insult): "I guess it beats panhandling in the streets."

Okay, that's not the worst of it. His wife, who was with him, pointed out to him that we just so happened to be standing next to a guy sitting on the ground ... (wait for it) ... panhandling. The couple slunk off in embarassment.

I laughed out loud. They were more concerned that they may or may not have insulted a perfect stranger "panhandling in the streets" than they were about the fact that my now former favorite professor had just insulted his former student's career choice. Oh well, at least they exhibited a "preferential option for the poor".

The only thing that could have made it any funnier would have been if they had dropped a dollar in the guy's hat out of guilt as they slunk away.

 
At 3/05/2008 9:16 AM, Anonymous paul zummo said...

Many of my friends are in the legal profession, and almost every one of them that is working the 70-80 hour week at a big corporate firm is a) making a ton of money, and is also b) completely miserable. There is nothing at all in your chosen career that constitutes failure. To be happy professionally, spiritually, and personally is all that a man can ask for, and you seem to have been blessed in all those regards.

 
At 3/05/2008 3:44 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

George Washington had status and power as a General and a President but he wanted nothing more than to be a farmer and family man, you are following in a noble tradtion.

-FD

 

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