Sunday, September 28, 2008

Practicing Law and Having a Life

This weekend, the firms that I work for hosted a celebration for the 25th anniversary of Barbara Barron and Manny Newburger practicing together, as well as the 2nd anniversary of Barron, Newburger, Sinsley & Wier, PLLC. We joined several hundred of our friends and clients (some of whom were the same people) for barbecue and country music at the Salt Lick in Driftwood, Texas. What does any of this have to do with bankruptcy? Not much directly. However, it is a reminder to heed Shakespeare’s admonition to “do as adversaries do in law, strive mightily, but eat and drink as friends.” (The Taming of the Shrew Act I, Scene 2).

Twenty-five years is a long time. While I wasn’t there for all of it, there is still a strange sensation of waking up in another time and place. Over 25 years, we have gone through the real estate bust/S & L crisis which spawned the RTC, the leveraged buyout bust which gave rise to mega-bankruptcies, credit card defaults leading to personal bankruptcy filings topping 1.6 million, Enron, bankruptcy reform and now the sub-prime mortgage crisis. During that time, newlyweds had children grow up, our hair grew thinner and our waistlines grew larger (at least mine did). The baby boomers who hoped to transform the world now look forward to retirement.

Over the years, we have met a lot of interesting people and many of them were at the festivities. Politicians and judges mingled with real estate developers, reorganized debtors and debt collectors. Lawyers, clerks and support staff drank margaritas together. However, the best story of the night was probably the entertainment (and I am not just talking about Barbara Barron gracefully two-stepping and doing the cha-cha).

The headliner for the evening was Brian Turner and His Redneck Band. Brian is proof that only in Austin, Texas can a Jewish solo practitioner pursue his dream of being a snuff-dipping country music sensation. (While Kinky Friedman is more famous, that’s only because Brian hasn’t been discovered yet). Brian represented a significant bloc of creditors in a contentious chapter 11 case that our firm handled. As we were wrapping up the case, Brian shared one of his CDs with us. His music hits traditional country music themes such as patriotism, fatherhood and failed relationships, but does so with a wry sense of humor.

With songs like “I Miss That Dog More Than You,” “If Love Is Blind Why Do You See My Faults See Clearly” and “If You Won’t Leave Me, I’ll Find Someone Who Will,” Brian harnesses a traditional country music vibe with just a little tongue in cheek. Even his tribute to his father contains the refrain, “So here’s to my dad/ who taught me all my bad habits/ some of my good ones, too/ Like to be a great dad/ believe in your country and never turn my back on you.”

I admire Brian for managing to practice law and pursue his dream as well. Let’s hope that the rest of us can find a way to harnish our dreams and creativity outside the workaday world.