Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Editor's Message: The Labor of Lawyers

By Ed Comey

Well, hopefully this issue of the Lawyer made it to you in time to read while you are relaxing over the Labor Day weekend. Weather permitting, I hope to get a chance to go to the beach, although with an energetic 3-year-old and a rambunctious 20-month-old, there won’t be a lot of reading (or relaxing for that matter). But the prospect of a relaxing three-day weekend did give me a chance to reflect on the Labor Day holiday.

Labor Day, of course, was created by the labor movement to pay tribute to the “contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country.” (In case you’re interested, you can vote whether Matthew Maguire or Peter McGuire is the real “Father of Labor Day” on the Department of Labor website). Probably because Labor Day was created by the labor movement, I’ve always thought it was a holiday for “blue-collar” workers or other non-professionals — not lawyers.

I’m not breaking news when I say lawyers rank near the bottom of various public opinion polls. Part of that, undoubtedly, is because lawyers — mostly thanks to a few “bad apples” — generally score poorly when it comes to trustworthiness. But I also think the public views the profession unfavorably because — in their mind — we don’t “build” things.

That’s why, until recently, I’ve never quite felt comfortable celebrating Labor Day. (Don’t get me wrong, I’ll take the day off.) After all, we don’t build cars, or roads, or bridges, or skyscrapers. To many, lawyers merely push paper. (I’ll confess to having felt that way from time to time.) In fact, not only do some people think lawyers don’t “build” things, I think there’s a sense that lawyers get in the way of things get built. But one of the benefits of editing the Lawyer is it has exposed me to how we do, in fact, build things.

Take a look at the article by the Military & Veterans Affairs Committee, where you can read how we now have 17 areas of law where local lawyers have committed to support those who have served our nation. And new HCBA President Carter Andersen has a great message about how other lawyers have mentored him and the impact that has had on him. There’s also a great essay by Sienna Osta talking about how revolutionary lawyers constructed a set of rules for a government that has endured over 200 years. It doesn’t take long to realize lawyers do build things: We build up people, we help build communities, and we help build civil society.

According to the Department of Labor website, Labor Day was initially observed by a parade exhibiting “the strength and esprit de corps of the trade and labor organizations” to the public. I’m not holding out hope that we’ll one day have a parade exhibiting the HCBA’s strength and esprit de corps to the public. But I do hope that you get a well-deserved break from your work helping build the strength, prosperity, and well-being of the country.