Thursday, July 28, 2011

Missing a mentor

I haven’t written much about my former lawyer life since leaving the firm back in March.  When I first stopped working, I thought a fair amount of my posts would be focused on the transition from attorney to full-time mother primarily because I was panicked that I would miss the mental stimulation of my former life and I would need to vent to whoever would listen.  In truth, at this point there is very little I miss about the law or at least my life in the law and I am validated nearly every day that I made the absolute right decision for me and my family.

But rarely a day goes by that I don’t miss one thing about my old life—or I should say one person.

I met Bill Wood a week or so before I started practicing with the firm (about 5 ½ years ago now).  He is the self-described senior member of the firm and while my career was just eking out of the starting gate his was well on its way to winding down (or as he likes to say, “putting out on the 18th hole.”)  But despite our age difference, Bill and I clicked immediately.  He had been asked by some of the other attorneys at the firm to mentor me (poor guy) through the incredibly complex world of family law.  Little did I know that our mentorship would very quickly turn into a deep and special friendship (for me anyway; I like to think that Bill would see it that way).

Bill Wood is legendary in the Virginia legal community and I have never heard anyone speak a negative word about the man.  He is scary smart, as ethical as they come, humble yet confident, exceedingly giving with his time and energy, and has a wicked sense of humor.  Bill knew everything (everything) about the law (in some cases, he even helped to craft legislation), but he worked harder than anyone in preparing for a trial, mediation or even a client meeting.  He had a passion for discussing issues and brainstorming solutions, which in my experience has become a dying art among attorneys who tend to work more isolated than ever.  He never discriminated against his clients, working just as hard for those people who would likely be financially indebted to him for many years to come.  He was tough when he needed to be but never seemed to lose his perspective or become jaded (a miracle in itself after practicing for some 45+ years).

But to me, Bill was a soft place to fall when I needed help with the law (or even with life).  He never made me feel stupid or misinformed although he had plenty of opportunities to do so.  I was never afraid to ask questions, bounce an idea off of him, or even just go to him with an “I have no idea what to do here” scenario—he had a way of simplifying the impossible.

I miss Bill.  Every day.  I miss his legal mind, I miss his (sometimes inappropriate) jokes, I miss the way he asked me how I was doing and seemed to genuinely care about my response. 

When I made my decision to stop working, Bill was the one person I couldn’t face.  I knew the second I opened my mouth, I would start to cry.  Instead, I told his partner (another very special mentor of mine) and asked that he share my news with Bill.  Less than five minutes later, Bill came in my office, shut the door and gave me a tremendous hug.  I have never been so touched in all of my many careers.  All he said was, “you’re doing the right thing.”  And that was all I needed to hear.

Bill is a true Virginia gentleman in every sense of the word and I am so afraid that he doesn’t know how much I appreciated working under him.  I know that there is a part of him that is disappointed by my decision and I am okay with that.  I suppose I would be more worried if he let me go easily.  When (or if) I do decide to return to the law, I would want nothing more than to work with Bill.  Sadly, I assume that when that day comes Bill will be happily retired, enjoying a Grey Goose (neat) and playing a round of golf—finally being able to putt out on that elusive 18th hole.

Thank you, Mr. Wood.

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