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I recently met the Father of the Year. I have no idea what that really means or who gave him the award, but I immediately imagined myself smiling in front of dozens of flashing cameras somewhere on the White House grounds, receiving the Father of the Year award from the President of the United States. The award would look rather nice next to my other pride and joy – the “Hope of America” award I received in the sixth grade (a/k/a the award my wife keeps removing from my nightstand and hiding in the attic). Possible? The lawyer in me says anything is possible, but that’s the problem. I am a lawyer-father, a breed of men who struggle to make it home from the office before the kids are in bed (according to my wife, “quality time” with my children does not include smiling at them through their bedroom doorway long after they have fallen asleep.); ban their little children from coming within a ten-foot radius of them when they have their suit and tie on; and, most importantly, do not always know when or how to take off the lawyer hat and put on the father hat. Lawyer-fathers have a hard enough time being normal fathers, let alone winning Father of the Year. I am no exception. I treat my kids well and they love me, but am I a father or a lawyer when I subject my four-year-old son to cross-examination just to find out if he washed his hands before dinner? Q. Did you wash your hands before sitting down at the table? A. Yes. Q. When? A. Just now. Q. Where? A. In the bathroom. Q. Which bathroom? A. The hall bathroom. Q. Did you use soap? A. [Acting annoyed, the witness shrugs shoulders.] Turning to wife: Did you smell his hands? Wife [rolling eyes]: You smell them, Perry Mason. Dinner’s getting cold. Society has its own opinion of lawyers and, I am positive, would ban lawyers from being fathers if it saw how we pass on our “skills” to the next generation. Like when I’m with my children at the grocery store and I – spotting something out of the ordinary, such as water spilled on the ground or a shelf that is dangerously over-stocked – point out the problem and remark something like this: “That would make a good lawsuit.” And then I go into a trance-like state for about 45 seconds, imagining myself getting rich as a plaintiff’s attorney suing the grocery store chain. Luckily, my trance wears off just before my young children raid the candy shelf or run out into the parking lot unsupervised. I admit that being a lawyer-father also makes me a bit eccentric. One time the leg on my baby’s highchair broke and the seat tumbled to the floor. Rather than offer a prayer of gratitude that my baby was not in the highchair at the time, I wondered how much moolah that type of lawsuit would garner. When I off-handedly mentioned this to my wife, she told me I’d wind up in jail and no plaintiff’s attorney would take the case because she’d truthfully tell everyone that “fix the loose screw on the high chair” had been on my “to-do” list for over a month. So much for being the Hope of America. You may think the real problem is cynicism, not lawyer-fatherism, but that’s only partly true. “Thinking like a lawyer” is a great tool that enables me to analyze the consequences of my fatherly acts long before I do something drastic . . . or, at the very least, avoid filing frivolous lawsuits when I make mistakes. Maybe, just maybe, this is where lawyer-fathers have an advantage. For example, my son, then two years of age, injured himself at the neighbors. (I’ll call them the Andersons to protect the innocent.) He fell into a deep pit in the Andersons’ backyard – an infamous backyard full of dangers that naturally attract children. I would never sue the Andersons (they’re not collectible), but I still thought about the trial. Cross-examination would have been short and humiliating: Q. Mr. Brown, how often do you let your son go over to the Andersons? A. Every Sunday after dinner. Q. Do you ever go over there with him? A. No. Q. Do you ever supervise your children while they are over there? A. Nope. Q. Do you know that there are hidden dangers at the Andersons? [Slowly nods head] Q. Please answer yes or no. A. Yes. Q. What do you tell your son about these dangers? A. Nothing. Well, maybe “Be careful, son.” Q. Nothing else? No other warning? A. That’s it. That same two-year-old son, who is a bit accident prone, did a flip off my in-laws’ trampoline. It was by accident, but my brother-in-law saw it and said it was the coolest thing he had ever seen a little kid do. My son was shaken, but otherwise okay. My in-laws are collectible, but the lawyer-father in me knows better: Q. Mr. Brown, tell me – how often does your son jump on your in-laws’ trampoline? A. A lot. If he’s not exploring at the Andersons’, he’s jumping on my in-laws’ tramp. Q. Does the trampoline have padding over the springs or a net around the sides so children will not fall to the ground? A. No. Q. Is your son big enough to get onto the trampoline by himself? A. Um, I’m not sure how that’s relevant. Q. Just answer the question. A. No. Q. How does he get onto the trampoline? A. Either I or someone else puts him up there. Q. Do you ever supervise him? A. No. Never. Thinking patterns such as these, where I envision the jury deliberating for five minutes (if at all) before returning a defense verdict, help me avoid frivolous, time-consuming lawsuits that unnecessarily detract me from cases with paying clients. Society can thank me later. Thus, in closing, I submit that being a lawyer-father doesn’t entirely disqualify me from winning the “Father of the Year” award. . . . Right? Or at least a “Lawyer-Father of the Year” award. . . . Anyone? Maybe I’ll just run for President.

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