I recently attended a funeral for a friend’s mother, and was moved by the service and the remarks made about this wonderful woman. I learned that my friend’s mother lived by these words: “Attitude is everything. You can either choose to curse the darkness around you, or you can choose to light lamps. Always choose to light lamps.” I love this metaphor. I certainly see darkness in my profession from time to time. Attorneys are angry about grievances filed by clients they believe are ungrateful or unreasonable. The State Bar issues discipline against attorneys who are not managing their trust accounts as the rules require, and the feeling is that the punishment is too harsh. Lawyers are losing their licenses to practice law for lapses in judgment that cause harm to the profession.
I have also seen lawyers who have taken the grievance process and disciplinary proceedings in stride. Instead of cursing the client who brought the grievance, the attorney took the opportunity to re-evaluate her law firm’s client service and responsiveness, and make positive changes in her practice. Instead of cursing the State Bar staff or the grievance process, another attorney found out something he did not know before. As part of his written response to the State Bar and given the nature of the allegations against his character, we advised the attorney to get character letters from his colleagues and those in the community to support his good character for truthfulness. The outpouring of support was uplifting, and the attorney learned how well his peers and others thought about and appreciated him. Without the State Bar grievance process, he may never have known how much he was loved and respected. In another instance, where an attorney faced losing his law license, he reconsidered whether the practice of law was truly his calling, and ended up finding more joy by following his passion to another profession.
These attorneys are just a few examples of those whose attitude made all the difference. They chose to light lamps rather than curse the darkness. I believe they came out better for having done so.