You Can’t Live Life in One Day

This expression has incredible significance to me.  Today is the two year anniversary of my firm, marks just over 17 months being a dad and an incredible month and a half as a husband.  You can’t force a happy life; you have to cultivate it.  You have to be passionate about it.  You have to take the tears and fears and make the most out of them, focusing on the other side of the tunnel.  Tomorrow has the ability to be the difference, but only because yesterday was not wasted.

It is hard to take my last 2 years and not find a lifetime in it.  I have seem my mother grow ill and lost her, found and married a best friend, gained a son whose mere promise changed me at the primal core, been severed from a job only to start a firm that I would put up there with the best in the country.  I have been touched my clients, discovered a passion for helping people that erupted like the most powerful volcano, defrauded by someone I trusted and lost a couple friends because -well- they weren’t really.  And seen dumbfounding growth of my practice.

Before last May, I was a guy trying to make it in a large firm.  I was told it was the place to be.  I was led to believe it was an honor.  I got caught up in the wining and dining and horserace that really only served the lawyers- not the clients.  In my last week at Morgan & Morgan, I stood before a panel of jurors who held up a mirror of who I had become.  Out of a panel of nearly 30 people, we couldn’t find 6 who would give us a fair trial.  One juror said people who turned to firms like Morgan & Morgan or Farah & Farah were “not clean living” and spoke of how distasteful we all were.  This is before she even know we were Morgan & Morgan lawyers.  Here I stood with a client I believed in, I had cried for, taken calls from throughout the night because of her horrible injury and disabling condition called RSD and she -and I- were guilty by association.  I fought for and obtained a mistrial, striking every single juror who believed advertising firms were fishing for lawsuits and thus were unethical.  And looked into that mirror in what would be my last week there.

I went back to the office that night and wrote a firm-wide email about the jury panel, what I had learned and basically it -and I- was apparently seen as the rogue wave.  It was the Jerry Maguire mission statement gone wrong.  It was the final straw, although I am sure that straw had been cast long before.  Having spent the better part of 10 years dissecting cases, I had become a so-so lawyer in an unethical system where I could not know or personally serve my clients.  We, including my longtime secretary and paralegal, left on May 5, 2011. I literally had 10 minutes notice to tell these employees who had followed me out of loyalty, they were now jobless because I was incapable of being a success in a model who defined success very differently.  I hurt for them for weeks because they trusted me to guide them and I chose wrong.

And I hurt for me.  My pride was hurt.  I had never failed.  And even though it was sworn to me that it would be publicly conveyed as “my decision,” they neither kept that promise, nor was I able to perpetuate a lie.  I debated going home, changing careers and wound up just taking some time off, plotting my comeback.  Knowthelawyer was born- a firm built on the foundations of my great grandfather and grandfather, both lawyers and men of honor.  It all started after a lunch with the person who would be my first employee.  We had a few clients follow us over, a few more walked in.  We survived.  Heck, I got a million dollar verdict Morgan’s bean counters begged me to settle for $35,000.  Coke only offered $70,000 before trial despite me telling them they were very wrong.

That very May, I learned my mother was ill.  My mother was the person- THE person.  And I was clearly and always a momma’s boy.  She was always there.  Not just for me, but for everyone.  She sacrificed if it meant comfort for others.  And it often showed with declining health.  We’d tell her, but she wouldn’t listen.  She couldn’t listen.  She lived off of her own sacrifices. I finally understand that some.

In and out of the hospital over the next several months, things got rough and then better.  She recovered -or so I was told- and was set to go home- the loss of her last kidney as the ultimate sacrifice.  I visited her 3 days before her death in November 2011.  We walked around, we talked about Angela and how I finally had found someone who completed me more than I had ever been competed before, we looked at the pre-natal photos of Bennett (due 3 months thereafter) and talked about the new firm.  For the first time, I think she saw that Angela was going to be there and make sure her boy (and his boy) would be taken care of.  I don’t remember the weeks after she died.

That very May also brought a deviated septum surgery that had been planned and pushed to June, thus creating an issue with COBRA as -of course- the firm hadn’t done what they were supposed to and timely processed my paperwork.  12 hours before surgery, I was still fighting with the bureaucracy and snakepit of Morgan & Morgan.  It was satisfied in time and I breathed easier after- figuratively and literally.

Finally, that May brought another piece of news.  Angela alerted (jobless) me that she was pregnant.  I now had everything on the line.  I had a timeline to create -not just a firm that could compete in this market- but which would be one of the best.  I took a little of what everyone was doing and sought to improve it.  Things I had learned for 12 years from lawyers and non-lawyers, alike, were implemented.  I hired the best staff as soon as I could and have created a firm I’d put up against any other in town.  Angela (and the nameless lad in her womb) deserved it.

Angela was and still is amazing during the process.  Despite working for a less than sensitive cast of characters, she worked full days, kept us focused and moving forward and nurtured that baby with the perfect regimen of love and care.  The results cannot be described.  On the day before he was to be born, we drove to the hospital and I couldn’t stop nervously laughing.  I’ve dived the Great Barrier Reef and Ran with the Bulls and never felt the awe inspiring nervousness of that moment.  And that was just a false alarm.  Bennett was born the next day and would bear my recently departed mother’s maiden name.  There are no words to describe it- just as my mother said- Meaning and love that can’t be put into words.

In the days between losing my mother and Bennett’s birth, I asked Angela to marry me and we concluded that proposal on the shores of Maui in May- just her and I.  We missed our friends and families, but this has been a very unique two years for both of us and I don’t know how I would have gotten by without her.

Despite what some cheapshot lawyers would like to characterize, the awards really don’t matter.  Peer recognition and all of the “best of’s” help, but if you think they define me in any way, you are ignorant.  The appearances in/on national tv or magazines are really cool, but don’t define me, either. We are doing this for one client at a time and so Bennett or Bennett’s Bennett can look back and say, we (his mom and I) made a difference.

I have an unmatchable desire to obtain justice for clients.  True justice is often not defined by money alone. That is a lazy lawyer’s solution- here we got you a check for every penny of a last offer they were willing to make.  Justice is best defined by people being able to tell the client’s stories, describe their hindered passions, honor their lost children, prevent bad from happening to others and raise awareness or change laws.  Justice is defined by having someone truly listen and understand them- not send out a flunkie investigator or a bait and switch of a lawyer because the TV spokesman doesn’t really handle cases.

So, here we are- two years from unlocking that scary door for the first time.  If I can do it, you can do it.  You can’t live your life in one day, but you can start living your best life today.

Thank you to my wonderful family, amazing staff, awesome support system, social media buddies who have incredible tolerance, Nikki for introducing me to Angela and so many others and thanks to the kid who changed the way I value life every second of the day- Jordan Davis.  After 13 years of being a lawyer and 2 years on my own, I assure you, we are just getting started.



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