Recently, I cleaned my office. That alone is worthy of a President's Message; however, the story gets better. What began as an almost-as-good-as-a-root-canal experience turned into a journey back in time with a treasure-trove of items that hadn't seen the light of day in decades.
As I pulled out boxes from law school, I was reminded of stories of offices with grease-stained files from doughnuts having been smashed between them while the pile sat. I worried about whether something would nibble on my hand or whether I would mourn the death of a once-living thing crushed by mountains of legal prose. Other than a smashed pretzel and one dead fly, I was pleasantly surprised with some of my discoveries. Among them were . . .
My law school notes. Amazingly, I saved every last scribbling from school. At first, I kept them in case the need arose to resort to textbook definitions for basis and other pressing tax law questions. Then, I had high hopes of passing them on to future law school friends. That was as silly as my fascination with the environmental law outline it took me a semester to craft. I decided to part with the notebooks that represented so many hours of study; however, as I did, I was reminded of a time when passion, patience, and perseverance ruled the day.
Various Certificates of Admission and Appreciation. Wow. I was admitted to practice in places I had never been and awarded certificates for things I didn't recall. I dusted those off and now they have been elevated to the top of a table. One day, they might make it to a frame. Maybe, maybe not.
A very-young-looking photo of me behind my desk with piles of files. It could have been taken 15 years ago, but my surroundings were still the same: a computer, lots of work, and candy on my desk. That was in the same box as a Ziggy cartoon about organized chaos; I threw that away since it clearly had not served me well over the years.
The IBA Standards of Professionalism and a book on Integrity. If you have not seen the Standards of Professionalism in a while, I encourage you to read them; they make you stand a little taller and practice law a little better. I believe these have a place right next to the paperclips and pens on our desk as an indispensable item to be consulted often. These, I kept.
Many old copies of news articles about colleagues, local Bar events and special people. I took some time to look back through these. Yellowed papers showed smiling faces of young lawyers who are now our seasoned leaders in the community. They smiled from behind an award being presented, or above a caption recognizing them for something wonderful they did as a new attorney. At the time, I had no idea that I was saving clips about what would be the future of our legal profession. It was nice to take a trip back in time with so many close friends, trusted colleagues, and respected leaders.
Personal notes that I had kept for one reason or another. While email and texting are all the rage, the personal note has all but died. I saved personal thank you's written for Bar work done from over fifteen years ago. I tucked away personal sentiments from attorneys and IBA staff who took their time to give me words of appreciation and encouragement. Even in the day of less is more, we should not underestimate the power of the personal note.
Finally, a faded copy of a Xeroxed paper was lodged between memos, books, and other items of no import. I am glad I took the time to read it before pitching it with the many other items that had our shred bins bulging at the seams. I don't know where I got it, or who gave it to me, but I kept this one. It had a short message and one that is worth saving: Today is What I Make It.
It seems to me that things require dusting off every once in a while. Remind yourself what was important to you at one time, what remains important to you now, and what you might have lost sight of. Take a moment to write a personal note to a trusted friend or a colleague whose photo is in the paper. Reflect back on your law school days, the people who helped get you where you are, and remember that today is what you make it.