We forget sometimes how much the practice of law depends on people. It depends on people to decide what to do, people to carry out those decisions, and people to pass judgment on those decisions when necessary. Computers help us be more efficient, but it is people that decide what is to be done and make it happen. Lots and lots of people, at every stage of the process.
I woke up in Beaumont this morning excited to be working with a team putting on our client's side of a Markman hearing. It was a memorable experience making our arguments and working with cocounsel, opposing counsel, and court staff to present our case to the judge. I remember sitting there at counsel table this morning thinking how lucky I am to get to do what I do, and to have the opportunity to advocate for clients in a system like ours. Then after the hearing I did what I often do when visiting another Eastern District courthouse - I made the rounds visiting with judges and court staff - comparing pictures of our children, hearing about new grandchildren and what our families are up to, gossiping about people we know, and telling a war story or two.
I don't know if this is part of practicing law everywhere, or perhaps it is just an extension of how people in small towns just naturally get along. The people we work with and see during the course of our day are an important part of our lives. Some come and go as jobs change, while others remain your whole career. And as Bill Moyers once said of our shared home town, people here know when you're sick and they care when you die.
I wish I could say that I thought about all of this at the time - that I thought about how important the people I work with are to me, and how lucky I am to work with them. But I didn't. I didn't think about it until I had almost gotten back to Marshall this evening and I got a call telling me that the woman who's worked next to me for the last six years as my paralegal and my office manager - who I've known for thirty-plus years since she was a boy-crazy ninth grade clarinet player - was found tonight in her home shot dead. And tomorrow would have been her birthday.
So when you get to your office in the morning, take a moment to look around and see how very, very lucky you are to be able to work with people that you care about doing something that you care about. Tomorrow morning when I get to my office and look around all I will see is an empty chair.