Before I came to Mirick O’Connell, I spent the previous 33 years as a solo practitioner in Marlborough, sharing office space in an old Victorian building with a lawyer 10 years older than me. We first met when I came home from college to attend law school. I wanted to be in politics. He worked for the City. His brother was in politics. I worked on his brother’s reelection campaign, and worked summers for him in the City’s office throughout law school. When I received my law degree, he asked me if I wanted to work with him. We worked together for many years.
He was, and is, the epitome of a small town lawyer. He handled some divorce cases, and will still talk about the guy he proved innocent of a “breaking and entering” charge four decades ago. Mostly, though, he helped people with the myriad issues they faced in their daily lives. He helped them buy and sell their houses, figure out their estate plans, deal with their kids who were in minor (and sometimes not so minor) trouble with the law, run their businesses, and sue the people who didn’t pay them. He also helped people figure out how to deal with local government. Mostly, though, he gave really good advice. Certainly, his advice was informed by his knowledge of the law. It was also shaped, though, by an accumulating wisdom that came from decades of experience dealing with conflict, problems, and their resolution.
He never made a lot of money, mainly because he was absolutely terrible about sending bills, and worse about collecting them. Clients would actually complain about it. He would shrug it off, saying he was too busy, or he couldn’t remember how much was owed. Like many solo practitioners, he was not great about returning phone calls. His clients usually stuck with him, though, because they valued his advice.
A few weeks ago, I heard (at the local barber shop, of course) that my friend has cancer, and that it’s serious. Since then, literally dozens of people have come up to me, asked me if I knew, and expressed the kind of sincere regret that revealed a sense of true loss. If the term “pillar of the community” still has meaning, it describes him.
This is my favorite time of year- people getting together with family and friends, eating a little too much, and reflecting on our blessings. In my little community, I and many others are giving thanks this year for a friend and colleague, who has been a local lawyer and who has brought honor and respect to that term, for decades.