JAMES E. BRILL 2015-06-01 20:54:31
Carpe Diem Will you answer when opportunity knocks? It’s been a long time since I participated in a discussion about the “right” courses needed if I planned to go to law school, much less to be a lawyer. Do you remember being advised to take Latin so that you would understand what you were reading? I can’t think of a single Latin phrase, except for res ipsa loquitur, that I remember having used in my law practice. Once in law school, I was intimidated into buying Black’s Law Dictionary. Many obscure Latin terms are defined in that book, but I never had a chance to use more than two or three. Try as I might, I never learned anything beyond superficiality and certainly never encountered any words that could have scored big at Trivial Pursuit. In spite of limited applicability to most law practices, every now and then, the public picks up on a Latin phrase. Carpe diem is one such saying. It is a call for action—seize the day! Maybe you have had a day that offered such an obvious opportunity for action that anyone would have taken advantage. Those days, if they exist at all, are few and far between. In my experience, real opportunities are anything but clear. Chance encounters predominate and what appear to be insignificant choices turn out to be life-changing experiences. In 1969, I attended a three-day national institute on law practice management. The lesson from a single lecture (less than an hour long) introduced the concept of using nonlawyers who could be trained and supervised by lawyers to do almost anything but appear in court and give legal advice. The presenter was from a two-lawyer firm in a small Kansas town who tried cases for insurance companies. The contrast to my general office practice in a large city was obvious. I had heard interesting lectures before and my reaction to them was like the response of most of us: it might work there, but my situation is unique. They say that timing is everything. I had been practicing with several other lawyers and we were about to go our separate ways. I had a young secretary who had agreed to go with me. As we discussed the possibility of her expanded role, I discovered that she was way ahead of me in visualizing our future. Carpe diem! For 28 years, she was the key to my practice. She helped to develop substantive and administrative systems for our office, handled most of the managerial duties, and selected and trained several other nonlawyers, including two who have worked with me for 36 and 19 years. These three talented women have been the backbone of my practice. With their experience, I have been comfortable in delegating ever-increasing responsibility to them, and their acceptance by our clients is all we could desire. That is my story. An interesting lecture had stirred my imagination, mobilized me to see how it would work, and then gave me courage to share the dream with a non-lawyer who expanded the vision and helped me make the dream a reality for both of us. None of this would have happened without action. That action turned a short lecture into an influential experience for my life and my practice. Have you encountered something of interest that could help or even change your practice? Opportunity is waiting at your door. Will you answer when it knocks? Carpe diem. JAMES E. BRILL is a 1957 University of Texas School of Law graduate and a solo practitioner from Houston whose practice emphasizes probate, estate planning, and real estate. He has been the principal author of every edition of Texas Probate System and is a recipient of the Presidents’ Award from the State Bar of Texas.
Published by State Bar of Texas. View All Articles.
This page can be found at http://mydigimag.rrd.com/article/SoloSmall+Firm/2022399/260823/article.html.