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Bar News - December 13, 2013

President's Perspective: Holidays Require a Special Kind of Balancing Act


I love being an attorney, but it wreaks havoc on oneís personal life. I, like too many practicing attorneys, have had a personal relationship end because of my obligations as an attorney. At this time of year, I often reflect upon that chapter in my life, because the precipitating event that ended the relationship occurred during the holiday season.

Some may believe that being an attorney is just another job, but those of us who practice law realize that itís much more. While the practice of law should not be all-encompassing, it brings with it serious responsibilities that are sometimes difficult to avoid.

For me, one of those occasions where my legal responsibilities took precedence over my personal obligations came while I was an attorney with the New Hampshire Public Defenderís Office. I had been working some late nights and long hours. It was a few days before Christmas, and I had promised to be home in time for a trip to visit family. Unfortunately, I was delayed at the office, and I was unable to get home in time to leave that evening.

A client of mine was supposed to be released from custody that day. But, due to a delay in paperwork processing, he remained at the jail and called me, desperately seeking help. I could not leave the office and turn my back on him. I stayed late, making calls and doing what I could to make sure my client could be home with his family for the holidays. Thanks to the hard-working staff at the court, he was released that evening. To me, it seemed like the best possible result, but to my significant other at that time, it did not.

Something that many non-lawyers donít realize is that being an attorney is not a job; itís a profession, and the majority of us take that responsibility very seriously. We stay late at the office to get that deal done, to settle the family law dispute, to free the deserving individual, and to protect the public from those who may cause them harm. In some areas of law, the holiday season is particularly challenging, as we attempt to make happy holidays for others, as well as ourselves.

Technology often complicates our responsibilities during the holiday season. Many clients believe their attorneys should be available at all times. They call, email and send text messages, holiday or not. We could probably fill this edition of Bar News with stories of clients calling their attorneys on Christmas morning seeking advice and looking for intervention. And as many stories as there are about clients interrupting a holiday with an emergency, there are just as many stories of attorneys willing to put their own holiday celebrations on hold to serve their clients.

This holiday season, I for one would like to take a moment to thank all of you professionals, who give of yourselves for your clients every day. I also give thanks to those who love attorneys and forgive them their absence while they care for the affairs of their clients. However, I am also mindful that time with family and friends is precious. While we may feel compelled to step away from family to answer that call, we should pause to question whether our continued commitment to this profession should jeopardize our personal relationships.

Maintaining some balance is vital to our continued commitment, good health and good relationships. Our clients also must realize that while we are dedicated to their case and cause, we are also humans with family and responsibilities outside of our professional lives.

May you all find some balance and enjoy the very happiest of holidays!

Supreme Court Rule 42(9) requires all NH admitted attorneys to notify the Bar Association of any address change, home or office.

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