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Daily Journal
     August 28, 2020      #87-241 KDJ

Dennis Marek: Reading during the pandemic 

By Dennis Marek

As many of my readers know, on June 1, I called it quits after 50 years of practicing law. No one can last that long unless they love what they do. Certainly many workers are identified by their profession and that is their mantra. To give that up is most difficult.

I was a trial lawyer. I tried anything and everything: murder cases, car accidents, train wrecks, building collapses, divorces, will contests, and many medical malpractice cases. I lived for the jury trial and the competition. I loved facing 12 jurors and trying to convince them that the other side had it wrong or totally exaggerated. That was my daily adrenaline.

But it was time. I knew that an end should come before I failed intellectually, before I had little time to enjoy the other aspects of life such as travel, seeing the family, golf, and many other fun things I had at least partially ignored in the pursuit of my profession.

With the pandemic and limited motion, I struggled with the extra time and almost no places to go. So I started reading more and more. The books that had sat on our shelves came tumbling down. There were mysteries, classics, books about Trump, war stories, and also some books written by lawyers.

I had read Scott Turow before, from his “One L’’ about his first year in law school to more famous lawyering stories like “The Burden of Proof,’’ “Innocent,’’ “Testimony,’’ and “Ultimate Punishment.’’ But there was a new book of his out this last spring called “The Last Trial.’’ How could I resist?

The book is interesting in that it covers a criminal trial in a federal court. The defendant is a friend of an 80-year-old attorney. The lawyer is about to retire but agrees to take this man’s case that runs from murder, to falsifying test results of an experimental drug the man’s company has created, to insider stock trading.

The book is written so that the layman can understand exactly what is happening. When the judge makes a ruling, the author explains the reasoning she so ruled. The objections by counsel were either stricken or allowed for those reasons. While some was pretty basic to a trial attorney, the writing is not overburdening. The style also makes important issues in the trial understandable to the non-lawyer.

But the part that drew me in the most was the out-of-court discussion between the lawyer and his daughter, who was also an attorney and with him throughout the trial. I saw some similarity between her observations of her father and his aging to that in my case of hanging up my shingle. The best part of the book, however, was his final argument. I would like to think I was almost that good on a few occasions.

As I have spent the last few months somewhat hunkered down, I have met many other retired men living in the same community that we have chosen. I marvel at the ages, the number of years they have been retired, and what they did for their livings. There have been executives of companies, another lawyer, a college professor, a car salesman still plying his trade on used vehicles, and even a nuclear engineer. Each has a different story of wrapping up a lifetime profession. Each has a different view of leaving that prior occupation. And each has a different feeling of post-job freedom.

As I thought of all the jobs I had from sheep raiser, steel worker, CIA analyst, and Air Force Office in high security areas, I realized that the one job I couldn’t wait to do every day was to practice law. I found something that drove me to practice toward approaching perfection each day. Perhaps that is why they call it “practicing” law.

This spring, I had my last trial. It wasn’t as impressive as Mr. Turow’s last trial, but I tried just as hard. If one loves what one does, it isn’t work. If he or she enjoys each day, while it may be stressful, it is still a fantastic way to spend one’s life. I have no regrets that I worked that long. It was sad to tell my clients that the ride was over, but I agreed that it was time. Perhaps the only bad thing about waiting this long is my golf game. Seems that the clubs just don’t hit that ball as far as they used to.

Dennis Marek can be contacted through the Daily Journal at editors@daily-journal.com or through his personal email at dmarek@amb-ltd.com.

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