Be a Thankful Lawyer
Thanksgiving gives us all an opportunity to take time to think about what we appreciate. Recently, I welcomed my 30th year of being a lawyer. It got me thinking, what was going through the minds of my clients in my early years when they hired a young and unexperienced lawyer? I was still finding my footing and learning the ropes in the initial years of my career as a lawyer. I am grateful and deeply thankful for each and every client that hired the young and inexperienced me. What they didn’t get with regard to experience, I tried to make up for in enthusiasm and hard work. Without all of those wonderful people that gave me their problems to deal with, I would not be the experienced lawyer I am today. With over three decades in the legal profession, my journey has been adorned with invaluable lessons, meaningful relationships, and a deep sense of gratitude. I find myself drawn to the elements that have shaped my thankfulness: the trust of clients, the enduring professionalism within our field, the benevolence of the judiciary, and the indispensable contributions of non-lawyers.
I remember an early client very clearly, like it was yesterday. She was a very nice woman who had a matter that was on the trial docket in Broward County. She didn’t think she had much of a chance of winning. I thought I could pull it off and told her, no guarantees, but I would try to win. I remember walking out the door of the courthouse after losing the trial. I was uncharacteristically silent (losing a trial has a horrible way of shutting you up). I felt someone gently grab my hand. I looked up and it was my client, smiling. She told me not to take it badly, “I just needed someone like you representing me today – Thank you.” Many clients will surprise you with their own gratitude.
Amidst the complexities and challenges of the legal world, I am deeply grateful for the enduring professionalism that permeates our field. It is a testament to the commitment of lawyers to uphold the highest standards of ethics and integrity. This professionalism fosters an environment of mutual respect, trust, and collaboration among legal practitioners. It reminds us that, at its core, the practice of law is about upholding justice and serving the greater good. This foundation of professionalism is what sets the legal profession apart and instills a sense of pride in being a part of it.
The judiciary plays a pivotal role in ensuring that justice is served, and I am immensely thankful for the kindness and fairness that I have encountered in my interactions with judges. Their dedication to upholding the rule of law and ensuring a fair and impartial legal process is commendable. This benevolence not only makes the pursuit of justice more effective but also reinforces the belief in the integrity of the legal system. It is a reminder that, despite the adversarial nature of legal proceedings, there is a shared commitment to uphold the principles of justice. The system that judges face each day to move their docket is daunting. They justifiably need to move cases. But the kindness extended by most judges when issues come up that need more time is always appreciated.
In the demanding realm of law, the support of non-legal individuals cannot be overstated. From family members who provide a foundation of emotional support to dedicated staff members who help navigate the intricacies of legal practice, their contributions are indispensable. They alleviate stress, offer perspective, and enable the smooth functioning of our professional lives. Recognizing their importance reinforces the understanding that legal practice is not a solitary endeavor, but a collective effort that encompasses a network of support.
Even in the midst of gratitude, it is important to acknowledge the less favorable experiences that have shaped my journey. I am thankful for the difficult clients who have taught me invaluable lessons about discernment and professional boundaries. They have illuminated the importance of aligning with individuals whose values and expectations align with ethical and professional standards. These experiences serve as a reminder that, in our pursuit of justice, it is imperative to exercise discretion in choosing whom we represent.
Being a thankful lawyer goes beyond the surface of professional achievements, it reflects the profound impact that the legal profession has on our lives. It is a recognition of the trust bestowed upon us, the enduring professionalism that characterizes our field, the kindness of the judiciary, and the indispensable contributions of non-legal individuals. Embracing gratitude in our practice leads to a deeper appreciation for the privilege of serving justice and a heightened sense of fulfillment in our roles as legal advocates. In cultivating gratitude, we move beyond entitlement and find true contentment in the meaningful work that we do. Let’s all resolve to be thankful lawyers.
Jim Vickaryous is the managing partner of the Vickaryous Law Firm in Lake Mary and represents the 18th Circuit on The Florida Bar Board of Governors.