When Law Firms Close

How does one pack up a law library? What becomes of the files of the closed cases, and what does one do with the bits and pieces of paper, mementos from clients, paper weights and desk ornaments that have been collected over 30 years?

Oddly they are much easier to dispose of than the memories of the fact patterns and results of so many cases. Each file packed away releases a story, some outstanding aspect of the client, the facts, or the ruling.

Oddly the memories are always tied to what direction my desk was facing as each clients demeanor comes to mind as I pick up the file.

Facing east I recalled the somber sailor whose wife went mad.

Facing west I recall the man whose cigarette dropped from his mouth when I told him I needed $500 to start the custody case he wanted to bring, sometime in the 1980’s. Hardly enough, but clearly out of his league, particularly for the “She’s a witch” variety of claim.

Facing north I recall the clean cut fellow who sought custody of his daughter and seemed to have plenty of cash to do so, only to learn later most of the money was from drug sales.

And finally facing south, the new client who announces she was a four year old I fought over once, now here with her own divorce and her own four year old. Same as it ever was. How old am I really?

Then there are the courtroom scenes; the moan one client lets out as 60% of the property is awarded to his wife of 30 years, or the mad howls of the women who lost custody of her children.

Nothing I learned in law school prepared me for the human side of the last 30 years. Nothing. In particular the mixed emotions of closing the firm my father founded to join an iconic 100 year old firm of my hometown, Newton Kight.

At the gathering for the people who have worked for my old firm photographs were shared from the past three decades. We were shocked at how young we all looked then, having witnessed the mirror in the morning.

All things must pass.

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