I took the last week to breathe. For the first time since 1999, I am no longer in a leadership position in the criminal defense bar. (Immediate Past President is an official position in FACDL, but my main job is to keep quiet unless asked to speak). Last Saturday night June 11th, I gave my awards, got my engraved marble Washington Monument looking momento, and said good-bye.
When I gave my (when will he sit down) good-bye remarks, I focused on the young lawyers in the room. I told them that 13 years ago I had no idea I would ever be President of FACDL.
I got involved in the governance of the criminal defense bar for no other reason but to be involved in the governance of the criminal defense bar. My small bar is no different than any other bar - there are suspicions of those who ascend into voluntary bar leadership. Few days went by where someone didn't say "why are you doing all of this?" "Are you running for judge?"
Now that I'm done, I'm asked about NACDL, and other Bar positions.
I would not trade the last 13 years. Organizational politics takes it's toll. Many times you wish you never knew the "workings" of a voluntary bar association, you wish you could be like many who show up for the beer and pizza, leave early, and complain, wondering what is being done to fix their problems.
This was never a marathon for me, a road to the top of the world. I love being a criminal defense lawyer, and I love FACDL. I've made deep, lasting, friendships. I've seen single lawyers marry and have multiple children. I've seen dear friends divorce, and listened to people confide in me their medical conditions. I've even represented a member or two in some minor dust up. I count as some of the most important people in my life those I have met in FACDL.
I have no desire to be a judge, to be President of NACDL, or anything else other than continue building my practice and re-commit myself to charitable causes in my native Miami community, including Diabetes, a disease I've had since the age of 34. We've started a Florida Association of Bar Defense Lawyers, and I'm going to work on building that organization. I'm not saying these other things won't be of interest in the future, but for now, I'm tired, I'm done, I'm satisfied.
One of the things I always hear from lawyers is "I want to get involved, but I don't have the time." You have the time. Not everyone needs to be on the board, or be President. There are committees, projects, things that take little time but can result in much growth in your career, both personally and professionally. The apathy of the criminal defense bar nationwide is to blame for much of the railroading we receive by judges and legislatures. That we concentrate more on making money than making policy, is well known.
I once stole a quote from a Bar leader which I think is prevalent here:
"Your practice is not the walk from your house to your car to the courthouse."
Non-anonymous comments welcome.Brian Tannebaum is a criminal defense lawyer in Miami, Florida practicing in state and federal court, and the author of The Truth About Hiring A Criminal Defense Lawyer. Post to Twitter
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