Monday August 2, 2010

by David M. Gonzalez

My back hurts.

So do my shoulders. And my lats, if I properly describing the muscles on the side of my lower back.

From 7:00 a.m. Saturday morning to 8:30 p.m Saturday night I worked out at the ranch changing the thermostat on the work truck, hauling lumber, and finishing the kids’ treehouse / play fort.  I got fewer hours of sleep last night than I normally do, but I slept much, much better.  Why? Because I was too tired to worry about anything.

I often explain to potential clients that lawyers earn a living by trading stress for money. Nothing reminds me of that more than when I spend the weekend doing manual labor.

In high school my dad made me work for  a summer at the family business loading and unloading produce trucks. The idea was that manual labor makes you value your education. It worked. There’s nothing like doing backbreaking labor for 8 hours only to earn $40.00. There were many days that not a productive or intelligent thought went through my head. You don’t do much thinking when you’re unloading a truck full of onions in 103 degree heat.

In high school, I thought “college will be great! I won’t have to spend every afternoon and weekend working on and worrying about homework.” In college, I thought, “law school will be the break I need! I won’t have to spend so much time writing papers and reading for so many different classes. In law school, I thought, “I can’t wait until I practice law. I can finally stop working at the end of the work day and have my nights and weekends free.”

When you ingest other people’s stress for living, the problem is: where does it go? For some lawyers, it’s a perfect example of why our profession suffers from elevated rates of depression, alcoholism, and divorce. Others simply work themselves to death. I don’t have any of the problems in the former group, and I have too many kids to be in the latter, but I’d say I internalize a lot and spend a lot of my time worrying about my clients. I worry that many of their lives are in my hands. I worry that their families and children are depending upon my work to find a solution to their problems. I worry that I might not be a good enough advocate to keep them out of prison.

I thoroughly appreciate the value of my education, but there are many days that I’d like to know if I would be just as worried if I scooped ice cream or delivered newspapers for a living. My mind has a hard time turning off.

Luckily, we’ve got a big landscaping project coming up, and there’s a flathead shovel with my name on it. I’m currently accepting new cases.

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