Editor’s Note: The following letter was in response to the recent suicide of James F. Ripper, an attorney for 37 years who operated a small Rocky Hill firm called Real Estate Resources LLC. In the Nov. 30 issue, the Law Tribune reported that the firm was apparently in financial distress because of the downturn in the real estate market.

To the Editor:

Jim was a gentle man as well as a gentleman.

But consider this. We are in a business that compels us to be strong and right. Our adversaries say we are wrong. The judges tell us we are wrong not because we are wrong but because they want us to start doubting ourselves in hopes that we will settle. Our clients doubt us. So we are left, alone against forces that are continually trying to tear us down. Who or what do we turn to? And if we do show our feelings, is that not a sign of weakness?

Years ago, the practice of law was peopled by people. Now the practice of law is a tweet, a LinkedIn, or a listserv. Our humanity is now made up of electronic bytes, not blood and guts. You do not know the person who is electronically next to you, but who is so far away.

Someone once said that the eyes are the windows to your soul. The electronic age has made us blind. We no longer can look into the soul of the person speaking, to see that they are crying. Each one of us, private practicing attorneys, lives on the razor’s edge. We are one step from disaster. We are like no other profession. We are hunters in an uncivilized jungle; we eat what we kill, or for the more politically correct, what files we close.

Once in a while one of us becomes in touch with our humanity. We look into the eye of the beast, and realize that maybe just maybe, there is more to life than being a carnivore.

I do not know what made Jim do what he did. But I do know this: Jim was a man, a good man, and a gentle man. And that is how I will remember Jim. As comments about Jim come by, they remind me of a bell tolling and of John Donne, who said: “No man is an island entire of itself; every man is a piece of the Continent, a part of the main…. Any man’s death diminishes me because I am involved in Mankind; and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.” John Donne (c. 1572-1631), “Devotions Upon Emergent Occasions, Meditation 17″ (1624).

The bell that tolls for Jim, tolls for me.

Kenneth J. Laska

Segal & Laska LLC