After 40 years of practicing and teaching law, I am taking a sabbatical. Well, I will as soon as I sort out a bunch of loose ends. (I also think there’s already a pool to see how long this plan lasts.)
I’ve got to grade one last batch of papers from a class I’ve been teaching at my alma mater, UConn Law School. It’s a first-year research, writing and analysis class I have taught on and off since 2001. I love dealing with new law students. They’re full of hope and promise and lack the cynicism, sharp edges and willingness to push back their upper-class colleagues sometimes develop. Sadly, I’ve come to realize that they’re my oldest granddaughter’s age and it’s really hard to talk about things that seem just yesterday to me but happened before they were born.
One day, when we were talking about Lawrence v. Texas, decided in 2002, I noted a bit of a puzzled reaction when I asked them if they remembered how excited folks got when it was decided. “Uh, I guess you guys were in what, 5th grade then?” “More like second, professor.” Ouch! And don’t get me started on the cultural allusions (broken record, Archie Bunker, Bill and Monica) that I can no longer use to illustrate a point in a lecture.
Or when I explained why the using italics for case references in briefs was not an option when I started to write them. “Well, there wasn’t a way to do italics on a typewriter. We had to underline.”
“What’s a typewriter?”
We’ve nearly reached the end of the semester, and these folks are getting pretty familiar. They now refer to themselves in their memos as “overworked and underfed” associate, or “highly caffeinated counsel for the Respondent.” I feel their pain. Luckily, I can take naps and get to bed before midnight. They don’t have the luxury. All I can tell them is learning to work on little sleep is pretty good training for the practice of law. Anyway, teaching, like litigating, is a young person’s activity. Time to let the next generation take over.
I’ve got a few grievance cases to wrap up. That process was delayed a bit when many of my colleagues at Disciplinary Counsel left, leaving two very competent but wholly understaffed people to do the work of six. I hear that a new one just joined them and they’re going to interview for a fourth. Cool, but they’ll be short-staffed even with four. Too bad, because they do good and needed work and I’d hate to see the process slide back into what it was when I joined the office where we had a yearslong backlog and delay in getting to even very important cases.
I’ve got about 150 hours of CLE banked this year, but can only use two of those hours for next year, so I’m going to have to do (or attend) some during ’19, so you might see me there. (I’m thinking of writing a rule that lets me sell some of my excess credits like they do for carbon tax ones.)
The only CLE I’ve committed to so far for next year is dedicated to helping senior lawyers transition to retirement. That’s going to be a huge issue for bar regulators, bar associations and practicing lawyers as my baby-boom pals all age out.
My colleague of 15 years, Pat King, is going to pick up both my ethics caseload and this column, though I’ll probably write more when I have fewer deadlines to meet, so I doubt you’ve read the last of these. I also expect to continue to consult on ethics matters. Most of that work takes just a few hours. I have many folks who have easy questions donate money toward an inner-city school’s football team instead of paying me anyway, but I think I’d miss the intellectual challenge of going cold-turkey.
I’ll also try to write the fourth edition of our ethics book if Jamie Sullivan and I can get our new publisher interested in it. The field continues to develop, and though only 2 years old, our last edition now needs attention on some important points.
My phone office will continue to ring in my pocket, though you might hear some noise in the background from a soup kitchen or a charity bicycle repair place I hope to spend some time working at. On some days, you may hear the noise of a crew I’ve fallen in with removing derelict fishing gear from the outer coast of Cape Cod.
Don’t forget me just yet. I’ll still be around. Sometimes you’ll have to shout to be heard over the dishwashers or boat engines is all.
Former Connecticut Chief Disciplinary Counsel Mark Dubois is with Geraghty & Bonnano in New London.