Dear Members of the mediation/collaborative community:
As many of you know, I am in the end stages of what has been a fairly lengthy experience with Prostate Cancer. I had originally considered describing it as a battle, but that terminology is certainly not appropriate in this community and frankly I cringe when I hear that said about anyone who dies of Cancer. Because the implication is that if you succumb to that disease, you are a loser who did not have sufficient strength or toughness to prevail. Now where have we all encountered that kind of language in our professional lives?
We all will die. I am very sad that I will not live longer —-My family is so precious to me and every day with them is a gift. Also, after many years of ambivalence about whether to forsake litigation I finally walked away from litigation as a result of a workshop on peacemaking led by David Hoffman and Woody Mosten in 2015. I have always enjoyed being a lawyer but I truly loved all the mediation and collaborative work I have done over the years and fully intended to keep doing it for a long time.
So why did I take so long to commit?
Many of you have heard me obsess about how and when to quit litigation. I suppose part of it was economics. It was easier to make a living litigating. Those who litigate know that we make more money and have to do less marketing when we represent angry difficult people who can pay our bills. But I think there was more to it than that.
Unlike some of my law school friends who went on to be corporate lawyers or estate planners, I always felt that I was not a real lawyer unless I was in the courtroom. I had the misfortune of winning my first jury trial in Superior Court and was off and running - high on testosterone and convinced that I was destined to be a brilliant trial lawyer. That was why I went to law school. Before I began limiting my practice to family law, I had one or two jury trials a year and lost more cases than I won (because as a plaintiffs lawyer you generally only try only your worst cases - those that can’t be settled). Once I limited my practice to family law I continued to try cases regularly and I was always happy to be in the courtroom, enjoying the high of winning and accepting the fact that you don’t win them all. So as much as I would complain about litigating divorce cases, I secretly loved it. Especially the “wins.”
I stopped litigating for selfish reasons. The lofty ideals of the mediation and collaborative communities were a secondary motivation. But what did primarily motivate me was all of you. Our community contains the most wonderful practitioners in the legal, business and psychological community. I loved the relationships I had. No longer did I groan when I saw certain names on the caller ID. As difficult as the cases sometimes got, I always enjoyed the professionals on the cases and could see tangible benefits for our clients. No longer was there posturing. No more 5pm faxes for motion hearings the next day. No storming out of meetings to show off for our clients.
So my parting words to all of you are to encourage you to make an increased commitment to this community. You will not regret it. I have been overwhelmed by the number of people who have reached out to me in these last few months. I will miss all of you and the more you get involved in this work the more personal satisfaction and love you will experience. To have that opportunity is a blessing. So few lawyers can say that they have loved their “adversaries” on their cases. For me, you have all been friends and you owe it to yourselves to choose to be an active part of this beloved community. I am so grateful to you all.
It is hard for me to spend time on the phone but I would enjoy voicemails left at the office (617-964-8559) or emails to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Watch Howie receive the 2021 John Adams Fiske Award for Excellence in Mediation: