Most folks remember October 31st each year as Halloween, an interesting holiday where the celebration includes trick or treating, dressing in costume, carving pumpkins, playing pranks and watching or doing something to scare your pants off. For many, it’s a chance to cut loose and do crazy things they normally wouldn’t do. For others, it has deep spiritual meaning, some positive and some negative, depending on your faith.
Me, I’m apathetic about the whole thing. I don’t have any great affection or abhorrence for the day. I admit that I enjoy seeing my grandkids giddy with excitement to dress up as a chameleon, a ninja and a baby deer and go from house to house charming one family after another out their candy. My wife thinks it’s a great excuse to make her famous “ghoulash” and “mummy dogs,” (mini hot dogs wrapped in bread) for dinner, and to play “costume bingo” as kids from around our neighborhood come to the door to charm us out of our candy.
This year, the arrival of Halloween made me pause. I was reminded that the next day, November 1st, was the day I begin my 35th year of practicing law. Now that’s certainly no record, but it has been no hobby either. I remember when I was just celebrating my 10th year as a lawyer. I was thrilled that I had finally made it to ten years without any major meltdowns, lawsuits or problems, but the luster had definitely worn off of the pride I had felt on November 1, 1985 when I stood in front of a coliseum full of of people, raised my right hand and took an oath, in front of God and everybody that, as an officer of the Court, I would uphold the Constitution of the United States, represent my clients zealously within the bounds of the law and generally spend the rest of my working life helping people find workable solutions to their legal problems.
It brought back a memory of a conversation I had with another attorney about that time who had been in practice about 17 years at the time. As we discussed the practice of law and our futures, he told me that he was only going to practice another three years and then call it quits. When I inquired why he would terminate a successful personal injury practice, he made the comment that “twenty years is all that anyone should be forced to endure.”
Honestly, that comment stopped me in my tracks. And it made me think about my career and what I was doing with my life. At that time, my practice was concentrated in commercial litigation – lawsuits – that primarily involved car dealers and real estate developers. While I made a good income, it was an extremely demanding and negative world. After my discussion with my colleague, I started evaluating the type of practice I wanted. That’s when I discovered the world of estate planning. From that point on, I quit taking cases that I didn’t want and that angered everyone involved. I made the quality decision to spend the rest of my career being a positive influence in people’s lives, asking questions, listening to their stories and planning for their family’s future. It was truly one of the top five decisions of my life.
I only had one problem. All of my contacts in the legal world were in real estate and litigation. I had absolutely no idea how to start the practice anew, learn a new body of law, and generate enough clients to keep the business afloat while it grew. Fortunately, I turned to God and asked Him to connect me with the right people and to be my marketing director. I promised that if he would bring families to the office, we would do our absolute best for each and every one of them for His glory. Well, God being God, did just that. I believe that each of the families that we have represented over the years have been purposely sent to our practice instead of another law firm. And we have done our best for each family as we have been able. We haven’t been perfect, not by a long shot, but we have always tried to fix the problem, not the blame, and move on confidently in a positive direction, building trust one family at a time.
So at the end of our 34th year, and the beginning of our 35th, I just wanted to tell you, our client families and advisors that we have worked with for so many years, “thank you.” We genuinely appreciate the trust and confidence you have placed in our practice when you have asked us to help with your estate planning and in representing your businesses. We are humbled and we are honored to serve you. And we will continue to work to deliver Peace of Mind for you and your family as long as there is breath in our lungs.
Douglas G. Goldberg, Esq.
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