Reflections on 40 Years as a Lawyer


So last night my retirement became official, and I turn my career objectives from lawyering to writing. Twelve hours is hardly enough time for me to know how this will all turn out, but at this point, I can at least look back and feel great satisfaction from my years as a lawyer.  It’s funny, but like a lot of people who ended up going into law, it was never my lifelong goal.  Law was something I fell into when I realized I wouldn’t be a scientist. Nonetheless, I couldn’t have fallen into a better profession.  Here are some of the many high points of my career:

  1. Clerking for the Hon. John Minor Wisdom, Judge, United States Court of Appeals, Fifth Circuit, in the year immediately following graduation from law school. A great judge, a great, courageous gentleman and mentor. I will always miss him. I still have happy dreams when I’m back in his chambers.
  1. Trial in Tampa – (about which I’ve written an eponymous screenplay and non-fiction honorable-mention winning essay), when as a neophyte second-chair in federal court I took care of six migrant farm workers cum witnesses in a successful prosecution of slavery charges against two farm labor contractors.
  1. Galveston, TX six-week trial defending Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corp. against claims of four plaintiffs relating to Parlodel and happily ending up with a complete defense verdict, apparently surprising everyone.
  1. Having inspired the board game “You Dirty Rat” – an invention of a plaintiff unhappy with my having thwarted his frivolous claims.
  1. Managing to tie myself by my shoelace – inadvertently – to my chair in the middle of a trial, unable to stand to make objections, but able finally to secure scissors and snip my way to freedom before the judge or the jury noticed.
  1. Many more exciting and fulfilling moments too numerous to mention today.

I was privileged throughout my career to work with outstanding, dedicated people who taught me a tremendous amount, set examples of diligence and perseverance, and made these past 40 years a wonderful, magical journey.

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About brucejberger

Bruce J. Berger has published his short fiction in a variety of print and on-line literary journals, including Prole, Jersey Devil Press Anthology, The Awakenings Review, Raphael's Village, Eastown Fiction, Black Magnolias Literary Journal, and others. He also publishes shorts stories for Amazon's Kindle. He is pursuing his MFA in Creative Writing at American University beginning in August 2015.
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8 Responses to Reflections on 40 Years as a Lawyer

  1. Gary says:

    The pleasure, at least for 30 of those 40 years, was all mine. [And I was SAFE at home, despite what the umpire and Tommy Davis said . . . .]

  2. Liz Kirby says:

    Congratulations and good luck Bruce!

  3. Nancy says:

    Inspiring moments, and one perspiring one. How did you manage to tie your shoelace to your chair? Congrats on your legal career!

    Nancy

    • brucejberger says:

      How did I manage? It was one of those rolling chairs, and the loop of my shoelace knot was apparently too big, so that as I rolled back and forth — not paying attention to my shoes, but to the trial — the shoelace got caught by the roller, then got tighter and tighter. It’s an event I’ll never forget. Can you imagine: If the judge had called for a bench conference, I’d have had to … what? Roll myself up to the front of the courtroom??

  4. sekarman0319 says:

    Hello Bruce!

    Thank you for including me on your message. And congratulations on your retirement from law and your next exciting career as a writer. I am delayed in writing to you because we have had guests and then went backpacking, followed by another round of guests. All good but I am just now catching up on email. What a great career you’ve had as a lawyer. I’m betting that some of that experience will find its way into your new work via short stories or novels if it hasn’t already.

    I imagine that you and your wife are taking some well-deserved time on the West Coast at Bear Lake (do I have that right?). If so, enjoy! And no doubt, you are eagerly awaiting your first semester as an MFA student. How is your writing coming along? Although I have had some interruption in my daily schedule I’ve been writing as well (ok, not when we were backpacking ). We hiked the Dix Range in the Adirondacks High Peaks region. Camped two miles in along the trail and spent the whole second day winding our way up and down 4 peaks. Camped another night and hiked out. So beautiful. And we feel really blessed that we have 1) the space and time in our lives to do these things, and 2) the energy and ability to do them. God’s world is so amazing.

    I am looking forward to hearing about your impressions of early days in your new life including your classes. Please stay in touch.

    Best, Sylvia

    • brucejberger says:

      Thanks for your note, Sylvia. I’m happy the summer is working out well for you. We’ve unfortunately canceled Big Bear for this August, as my bad back has been acting up. Let’s get together for dinner with Dave sometime this fall. Bruce

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