Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Never Sound Retreat

My partnership had a retreat last weekend. I think that I have been to about 20-25 legal retreats, several of them in Galveston, where this particular retreat took place. Retreats have changed markedly as the years have gone by.There was a time when a retreat of trial lawyers was an excuse for a three day drunk, punctuated by a dinner where some hapless law partner would attempt to say something about the firm or the law business, just enough to appease the Federal government who was paying for about a third of it.The partner at the dais would always be shouted down. I once attended a retreat of Judges in Goliad, Texas in which a keynote speech titled "A Night in Old Goliad" was to be delivered at the Saturday night dinner. The speaker was a fine jurist who had been on the bench about 15 years when I first met him.When it came time to speak, the Judge was too drunk to answer the call, had there been a call, which there was not, because the M.C. Judge was too drunk to introduce the speaker and the crowd of Judges was too drunk to know the difference.

At a retreat at the Woodlands, I was in the back seat of a car being driven by a very drunk senior partner who was sitting next to his equally drunk friend when we were stoped pulling out of a Taco Bell drive- through by the local constabulary.I remember the dialouge as though it were yesterday.

Cop: License please

Dan:Don't have it with me

Cop: License number ?

Dan: I almost know it

Cop: (to Dan's friend),Sir, get back in the car

Dan:We are only out because I wanted a big taco but without sour cream.They put sour cream on our tacos, look (Dan thrusting Taco at cop).

Cop:(shining light at me) I take it that you guys are form out of town ?

Me: Yes sir, we are at a retreat of Fulbright & Jaworski trial lawyers over at the convention center.

Cop: Can you drive ?

Me: yes sir

Cop:Get everyone back to the hotel and don't come out again tonight.

Dan: But we have to get tacos without sour cream.

Cop: I really mean it.

Dan: but officer....

Me: Please Dan, give me the keys.I will take care of it officer

Dan:(as we drove away). I am not going to eat a taco with sour cream on it....

All of this seemed funny 25 years ago, and it still brings a small smile today as I recall it. But that was a different time. Virtually every trial lawyer I knew, over the age of 40, had a severe drinking problem. All colorful trial lawyers (i.e. the ones everyone knew and admired) were fucking drunks.My generation of lawyers got sidetracked on the way to alcoholism by cocaine addiction, something I never tried, but saw lots of evidence of.Today, alcoholism and drug addiction is a serious problem among lawyers, as among the rest of the population. The difference is that it is now a problem. Not the norm. You notice a drunk lawyer now. 25 years ago, most lawyers, like the Judges in Goliad, were too drunk themselves to notice that a fellow lawyer was drunk.The idea of driving while under the influence is unthinkable today. 25 years ago, it was done unthinkingly.

So real work is done at retreats today.My retreat last weekend was no different than a 48 straight hour attorney meeting in our conference room here at home.Some drinking was done, but no one so much as slurred a word.It is a lot less colorful, but a lot safer both short term and long term for the participants.

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