Thursday, June 16, 2011

Still here... sort of: Laments of Curmudgeon, Esq., solo practitioner

Crisis management is in full bloom here at the Undisclosed Location.

I had an appellate brief due a couple of Mondays back -- but no client. (Long story -- which can not told because it would necessarily involve identifying client details.)

But I navigated those tricky procedural shoals safely, just in time to plunge into another appellate brief, on double-secret final extension, that in fact got filed, as required. Sadly, that is a contingent fee matter. If I ever see a payday on that one it will be at least a year -- and maybe three or four years -- down the road.

But the job was done, and I'd done it as well as I know how -- just in time to tackle an unexpected (freebie) project that took my every joule of energy during the first part of this week. Meanwhile I'd solemnly promised to assist a colleague in responding to a summary judgment motion. The response is now due next Tuesday -- and, as I read through everything yesterday and started my research, I realized this, too, is going to be a major uphill struggle. I already knew that this is a also contingent fee matter. If we can survive this motion, we have a good chance of getting a decent settlement. If.

But these blocks of not-immediately-if-ever-billable time are inevitable in my practice. While the checking account is seriously depleted at present, I took comfort in the knowledge that I had a good payday coming -- soon -- from another appellate matter that I'd handled on an hourly basis earlier this year. The attorney who brought me in on the brief assured me that the client is a 'good pay' -- it just usually takes 60 days or so.

Monday was Day 60.

Tuesday I got an email from my colleague: Could I resend my last bill? It seems she never quite got around to billing her end of the project.... *Sigh.*

So... if posting remains sporadic here... and this is likely... it is only because I have gone into grim-struggle-for-survival mode.


Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Putting down roots -- and the dangers of transplants

Younger Daughter is the natural science major, not me, but I've been formulating this hypothesis for a while now: Some day science will recognize that animals (including us humans) have roots, almost like plants. Putting down roots in an area is not merely a figure of speech.

Nor am I talking about couch potatoes or the teenager who merges into a beanbag chair in front of a game console; I'm serious.

How many times have you heard of folks moving away from the neighborhood upon retirement? How many of them thrive and survive in their new locale?

The man we bought our first home from was on his way to retirement in Florida. He didn't last two years. He also didn't make 60.

There was a couple who was particularly welcoming to us when we were new in the parish. A few years after our paths crossed, however, they put their house up for sale and moved to the new Del Webb Sun City development -- in Huntley, Illinois. That's not that far away -- 45 minutes, give or take, in reasonable traffic. Still, they were away from home and hearth and all their daily routines. She died first, within a year; he followed soon after.

So many ex-cops die young. Is it just cumulative stress? Surely that must play a part. But so many pull their pensions after 30 years and get the heck out of Chicago (which has a residency requirement, after all, that many policemen resent bitterly). They go somewhere -- anywhere -- that isn't here. And a lot of them don't seem to last.

Some people plan ahead for retirement and put down roots in two places; when shuttling between them both becomes a bother, they can settle for one. There are many ex-Chicagoans living long and happily in Wisconsin or Michigan or Scottsdale or Marco Island. But too many other people just pull up stakes from their long-time homes and go -- not necessarily on a whim, mind you, but following a dream -- to these same places and it ends badly, and too soon. Maybe they fell in love with the place on a vacation. But they haven't prepared. When they get there, they don't know a soul. It takes a toll.

I'm no gardener, but I know from Long Suffering Spouse that young plants are far more likely to 'take' to transplanting than more established ones. When you re-pot a plant, you take the old dirt and put it in the new pot. That gives the old plant the best chance to adapt -- and the least shock to its roots.

Young people can move more easily than older ones. They haven't yet established their 'roots.' But here, now, in Chicago, is where I've raised my children. Here is where I have occasionally tasted success and too often sipped the bitter brew of failure. I don't know everyone in the parish. I don't know everyone in the Loop or at the Daley Center. But I know a lot of faces. I know the routines. I know the whipsaw changes in the weather. I know shortcuts. I know the gray pre-dawn when the birds start singing. I know when to expect the first fireflies and when the annual cicadas will start their evening droning. I know when the trains are due. I can hear the nearby Kennedy Expressway at night and the big trucks or the morons on motorcycles racing thereon. I'd love to go to a lot of places. But even if I someday get the chance to travel, I'll need to come back here, to Chicago, to nourish my spirit.

This isn't science -- not yet, anyway -- not as far as I know. But when millions of dollars are poured into a grant and excited scientists announce a link between longevity and living in one place (any place, except maybe Chernobyl), remember you read it here first.