I was helping out on the grounds at church this morning, and my pastor and I got talking about the things that school doesn’t teach you about either of our professions. And I told him that one of the things about doing estate and probate work is that I bring clients face to face with their own mortality. But the lesson they didn’t teach in law school is that they also bring me face-to-face with mine.
You expect that you will deal with people dying in this line of work, but nothing prepares you for how you feel about it when you actually liked them, or came to consider them as friends. Or how you’ll feel when you watch their kids squabble over what was left behind, and end up squandering the estate left to them with love, and the hopes that it would be a blessing, rather than a curse. It isn’t much of a legacy, and there have been times when I have been glad that some of these clients and friends didn’t live to see what knuckleheads their children turned out to be.
It isn’t always doom and gloom. I’ve seen some remarkable acts of kindness and reconciliation, some recognized as such, and some not so much, but it helps me to maintain the perspective that some people can’t help it. And in some cases, Mom and Dad knew, and planned accordingly.
Being an attorney, you get used to keeping people’s secrets, and when it comes to family, some of them are doozies. But when you see the effect of some of these secrets up close, you realize that they aren’t really secrets at all, but just the individual manifestations of problems that some people want to pretend society doesn’t have, or that society is capable of “fixing” by itself, with yet another law, or regulation, as if addressing the behavior is the same thing as addressing the cause of the behavior. But then, if law school taught these things, maybe our professional role would be much more about counsel than it would be about law, and there are days when I’m not so sure that some members of our tribe are equipped for that, either. But that is an observation for another time.