Image: Good Things Guy

Each month, I endeavor to produce a legal column consistent with the theme selected by our publisher. I am a rule follower. It was drilled into me at an early age by my parents, my five older siblings and the nuns at St. Martin’s school in Cheviot. 

Most of the time it isn’t too hard to find some overlap between the designated theme and some legal issue. That has less to do with my creativity than it does with the reach of the legal process. Lawyers and judges find their hands in an ever-expanding collection of issues. It’s part of what makes this job interesting. 

But, a “Best of” theme doesn’t lend itself quite so cleanly to a law related column.  I suppose I could create a list of “Cincinnati’s Best Lawyers,” but that seems dicey. Two of my kids are practicing attorneys and a third is studying for the Ohio Bar. Do I include them on the list and invite accusations of bias? Or do I exclude them and wave goodbye to Father’s Day gifts for the foreseeable future? 

What about all my great colleagues at Graydon? I’d list them all, but my column is subject to word limitations. Apparently the reading public can only take so much. So you see my dilemma. 

The solution I have reached is to create a different sort of “Best Of” list. This list is simply a list of the kindest acts fellow lawyers have bestowed on me in my 30 plus years of practice. I will not name names, but it seems to me that kindness is the best part of any of us, and so it clearly deserves a list.

One act occurred early in my career when I was struggling with being a new dad and a new lawyer at the same time. On-the-job training was a struggle on both fronts, and also a little tiring. One day, when I must have appeared completely stressed out, a partner took the time to buy me a cup of coffee and listened to me as I poured out my anxiety. It was not professional help, but it was much appreciated. Although I didn’t master either task, the kindness helped me to deal with it.  

On another occasion in that same year, I was serving as “second chair” in a trial in United States District Court. I probably looked like I was about sixteen. And to complete the picture, my parents came to the courthouse to watch their boy in action. My mom did not yell at the judge when he overruled our objections, but I worried that she might all the same. During a break in the proceedings, I was talking to mom and dad, when the opposing counsel stopped by. He introduced himself and told my parents I was one of the finest young lawyers he’d ever practiced against. This was almost certainly not true, but it meant a lot to my parents and to me. I almost felt badly when we won the case. Despite the outcome of the case he was such a great guy, and very kind. 

A number of years ago, I was scheduled to argue a case in the First District Court of Appeals here in Hamilton County. My father-in -law, with whom I was really close was, sadly, near death. Solely to allow me to spend time with him, the opposing counsel and the court agreed to move the argument to a day when the court would not otherwise have been in session. At the conclusion of the argument, the presiding judge took a moment to ask how my father-in-law was doing. I was sad to report that he had died, but I will not forget that act of kindness.

There are so many other occasions that could make the list, but it now occurs to me that there is simply not enough space. The ironic thing is that the folks who I have mentioned would likely not recall these moments – but as in most acts of kindness it is the recipient who carries the memory the longest.