Thanksgiving should be a time of reflection. As the years quickly pass I have found that I am more sentimental. It is important to thank those who have been a blessing.
This year, my wife took the opportunity given by the celebration of Thanksgiving to recognize the many things for which she was thankful. I was pleased to know that I was among those things for which she was thankful. Her exercise has made me stop to think about the events and circumstances in my legal career that have been wonderful blessings.
I graduated from law school in December of 1979. Forty years have passed quickly. I have been part of two remarkable law firms in that time. The last 19 years have been most productive. I am especially grateful to Steve White, John Allinder and Gene Graham for inviting me to join one of the best law firms in the state.
I am also grateful to those who helped me along the way. It began when I was 4 years old and my mother enrolled me in kindergarten because I made friends easily and I was persistent. I think persistence may be my best quality. It was refined by being the youngest in my classes through graduation from college. I was not always the brightest bulb in the lamp, but I discovered along the way that hard work and refusing to quit when the tough times came carried me. I live in the house where my mother lived and died, so I have a constant reminder of her impact on my life.
I also am grateful for my years with my former partner, Mike Manners. Mike helped me to love the law. He is one of the brightest legal minds in the history of the state, so working alongside him for 21 years was a privilege. We were a powerful team preparing cases for trial and trying them. Mike had no quit in him, which was motivation for a young, persistent lawyer. I especially treasure the evenings we spent in his office sharing a glass of scotch and talking about life, old movies and politics. He is a prolific reader and still sends me daily email messages at 3 a.m. sharing what will be “the best thing I would read that day.”
I am also grateful for the opportunities I have had to help clients through hard times. I never planned to be a trial lawyer when I was in law school but seized the opportunity when it arose. I have been representing people who have been seriously injured or lost family members through the negligence of others for most of my career. There is a lot of sadness that comes through this labor of love, and I view my role to be counselor and a catalyst to help turn something awful into something better. Money cannot always bring healing or the return of a loved one, but it can bring satisfaction for the injustice rendered and it can also help change lives.
I have had two clients die of unnecessary metastatic breast cancer while their cases were pending. My oncology expert predicted both would die, but until it happened I was in denial. One left behind a grandson who was brain damaged in an accident that took the lives of his parents. I have had many sad moments, but that was among the most difficult. We obtained a great verdict, but it was bittersweet.
I have also represented a quadriplegic whose life was changed by the failure of a radiologist to detect evidence of a stroke on two different CT Scans seven months apart. Through her struggle she lost her husband and daily contact with her four young children. She knew money would not restore her health so she wanted a house that was remodeled for her handicaps and a wheelchair van to give her opportunities to be transported at any time. Our settlement helped her achieve those goals. She only lived a few years after our case was settled, but happiness returned for the remaining years of her life.
I have been able to help two other clients purchase wheelchair vans. One died this year, but he did enjoy the freedom of transportation for a few years.
The most recent situation is in process now. My client had been disabled by a disease and was then seriously injured in a wheelchair van accident. She has been bedridden for 30 years. This year was the first time in years she has been with her family for Thanksgiving. It made my heart happy. She will ride in her new van for Christmas with her family this year.
I have had one client who died after she signed the settlement agreement but before she could use any of the funds. Others have died shortly after settlement. I wonder why.
My work for clients helped fund a legal education for one and to build a baseball field in Harrisonville for another. The latter one lost her son because a doctor did not diagnose a ruptured spleen and after praying with her and her pastor on a Friday night in her home, she told me the lawsuit was not about the money. It was not.
I truly believe that I was called to be a trial lawyer. This year was the second best year of my career, but perhaps the most difficult. There have been many sleepless nights thinking about my clients and the challenges in their cases. It is worth it. I am most thankful that God has provided the opportunity to help so many wonderful people. I am not finished and will continue the good fight as long as I am able, God willing.
Bob Buckley is an attorney in Independence, www.wagblaw.com . Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.