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THE MAGAZINE      May/June 2002
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Chair’s Message

What a Month of Sundays

Nearly 20 years ago (when I was president of the Young Lawyers Division of my county bar association), I was preparing to attend my first ABA Annual Meeting. I wanted to look my best, so I headed to a downtown department store for some new clothes. A shoe salesman helped me pick out new wing-tips and a couple of ties. He was a very good salesman. When I told him about my trip, he assured me I’d look fine with my new purchases.

As he was wrapping my packages, the salesman wished me well on my travels and then added that he had attended a number of ABA Annual Meetings himself, before retiring from the practice of law. I was surprised, especially since, up to that point, he hadn’t said a word about being a lawyer. He went on to explain that he had been a partner in a large firm a few blocks from the store, and had practiced law until he suffered a heart attack while working late one night. He had been lucky, he said, because the cleaning person found him and called the ambulance, and they were able to get him to the hospital right away. Two of his partners weren’t as lucky, he told me, because they had their heart attacks while working weekends with their doors closed. And no one found them until the office reopened on Monday.

By this time I was in shock, not just at what he was telling me, but also—and mostly—because of the casual way he was telling it. It was apparent that he’d come to terms with what had happened to him. He went on to say that he missed the law quite a bit, but could not return because of his health—too much stress. He added that he really did like selling shoes and did it mostly to be around people.

My grandfather was a minister, and he was always looking for what he called "sermon material." As I listened to the shoe salesman-former lawyer tell his survival story, I knew that it contained a lot of sermon material—and that my grandfather could have preached a month of Sundays from the tale.

I am no preacher, but as an evangelist for the Law Practice Management Section, I can think of a dozen related sermons. One sermon would be on the importance of being prepared for the surprises that can happen as we go about our business every day. A second would be on taking care of one’s self to reduce the risk of a heart attack or other health problems. Yet another would address the perils of overworking and failing to enjoy the bounties of life. Still another might be on the importance of working in an organization that values good health and balanced living. Come to think of it, these are some of the same themes on which my grandfather preached, only his sermons emphasized the religious side of things.

As for my shoe salesman friend, I have not seen him since. But I know that he would be pleased that our chance meeting so long ago made such an impression on me.

My experiences as Chair this past year have also made a lasting impression on me. Now, John Tredennick of Denver takes over the Section’s helm, so this is my final Chair’s Message. As I leave, I extend a heartfelt thanks to all the folks who make our Section a remarkable entity, including the hardworking volunteers, editors and staff who pool their talents to publish Law Practice Management. It has been quite a year, to say the least!

K. William Gibson, Chair, ABA Law Practice Management Section, bgibson@cnnw.net