It's always nice to see the lessons of Shivas being appropriately applied to our professional and personal lives outside the realm of golf. This interesting article by a long-time Shivas Irons Society member is a perfect example. (SC)
For football fans out there, this is not a self-help guide to getting through those long days that endure between the Super Bowl and the beginning of spring camp in Gainesville, Tallahassee, or some other football-crazed town. But I would like to discuss something that is more subtle and that deals with more than just a recreational activity. The title of this column comes from the book Golf in the Kingdom. The book's main character, Shivas Irons, opined that the game of golf is "meant for walkin' ... for if ye can enjoy the walkin', ye can probably enjoy the other times in yer life when ye're in between. And that's most o' the time; wouldn't ye say?"
This philosophic observation extends far beyond any game and can be applied to the ways we approach both our law practices and our personal lives. To illustrate, I will' share some of my own "in-between times" and the unexpected or memorable moments that have occurred between significant events in either the practice of law or during bar work.
The first "in-between time" occurred in the midst of a probate litigation matter involving an elderly woman who was being sued for undue influence by the decedent's nephew. Although I did not meet this client before the lawsuit was filed, I quickly decided that the claim did not have much merit, particularly when I found out that the primary beneficiary of the estate was a charity and that this lady knew the decedent mainly from games of bridge. There was also little evidence of the type of coercion required to invalidate a will. But the litigation featured inflammatory discovery responses and name-calling in the correspondence, all of which was understandably disconcerting for my elderly client. But she kept her spirits up and maintained patience and perspective as I attempted to explain why unsettling things were occurring. The truth thankfully started to come out, and an opportunity to narrow the issues in our favor presented itself through motion practice. The judge agreed with our legal position, gave us the appropriate relief, and the case settled shortly thereafter. Many months later, well after I had already moved on to other matters, our son, John Bedell, was born, and I received an envelope. It was a letter from my former client to John, in which she talked about her hopes for his life and some of the things she had learned during the litigation. I don't think that nice letter would have been written had my former client /~. and I not been able to have meaningful conferences "in between" those very difficult and confusing experiences for her.
Another "in-between time" occurred while I was working on a case with my law partner, Rob Major. The case was large and complex enough that Rob and I planned to work together on most aspects and had attempted to divide the labor evenly. But it turned out that I was working virtually alone during the first part of the extensive discovery conducted by the defendant. There were multiple document productions and some out-of-town depositions, including an up-and-back trip to Washington, D.C. After each trip, I'd go into Rob's office, and we'd talk about the progress of the case and formulate strategy. The case then entered a new phase, and Rob took the lead but needed my assistance. We traveled to the Midwest together for days of depositions, then spent long days back in the office preparing for depositions in my hometown of Tallahassee. It turned out that we arrived in Tallahassee while my younger brother, Nathan, was also visiting from out of town. I had been too busy to check in on my brother's travel schedule, but my mother was thrilled and quickly arranged for all of us to come to her house (the same one where I grew up) for steaks on the grill. It was a cool, perfect night for grilling, and the steaks and the side dishes were delicious, but not as enjoyable as the conversations that took place over that special meal. What an "in-between time!" I don't think I'm exaggerating when I say that Rob became an honorary Bedell during that "in-between time" in Tallahassee.
Finally, I'll mention my friend-for-life, Howard Coker, who has mastered the art of enjoying the "in-between times" so well that it is infectious. I had the good fortune to serve with Howard while he was president of The Florida Bar. Even though it felt like we were destined to work together, Howard and I hadn't spent much time together before being thrown into a large project. It helped that we had shared a few meals and then more than a few beers together at a Toronto Blue Jays baseball game. But Howard and I were not prepared for what lay ahead when he pulled me aside and said, "Frank, I have a project for the Young Lawyers Division." I responded, "Howard, I have the perfect person in mind for the job." Howard replied, "Frank, I am looking at the guy I want to do the job." Enough said - I was doing the job.
Within a couple of months, Howard, the OCBA's own Russell Troutman, and I began traveling around the state to raise money for The Florida Supreme Court Historical Society. We went to see managing partners at multiple law firms in Tampa, Miami, Fort Lauderdale, West Palm Beach, and Orlando. While I remember some of those meetings, including a luncheon where the legendary Chesterfield Smith spoke, what I mainly remember are those "in-between times," which consisted of Howard's enthusiasm and the random things we'd share as we traveled together. In fact, those "in-between times" laid the foundation for a special friendship I share to this day with Howard Coker.
I know from experience that it's frequently difficult, and sometimes virtually impossible, to appreciate and savor the "in-between times," particularly when you are stressed from facing multiple deadlines in a contentious piece of litigation or you are in the middle of a large, difficult task. But if you can take a moment and think back to other similar experiences in your own life, I imagine you'll be able to recall other times when you were "in between," and that will assist you with the task at hand. And for those of us who have children, let me suggest that the "in-between times" are often the best times.
Frank M. Bedell is a shareholder with Winderweedle, Haines, Ward & Woodman, P.A. He has been a member of the OCBA since 1987.