I am now officially inactive. Since I spend most days being sedentary, the change may not be visible. But a change it is. As of February 1, I became an “inactive” lawyer in Arizona*.
I became an attorney on Friday, November 6, 1981, when I was sworn in, along with three of my best law school buddies, by the Chief Justice of the Ohio Supreme Court. The following Monday my friends and I opened up the second all woman law office in Dayton –Bates, Riley, Sorrell & Tell--and waited for clients to show up.
Dayton’s economy wasn’t doing very well at that time, and there was a glut of office space. We were able to get a really nice corner suite on the seventh floor of the 111 Building at an affordable rent. It was very close to the courthouse and its free law library, some upscale clothing stores (The Metropolitan, Rikes, Elder-Beermans, and BMT) and some great restaurants. Everything new female attorneys needed.
We each put in $2000.00 for operating capital to see us through the first six months, by which time we expected to be earning enough to pay the overhead. The plan worked. We were fortunate to never have to add any additional family money into the business. We worked hard and kept the overhead low. In those days there were no computers to buy. One of us had an electric typewriter she brought in until we could afford a new one. Someone else donated office furniture that her husband’s business wasn’t using. Another partner’s mother volunteered to answer the phone and do a little typing. Everybody pitched in, got on court appointment lists, and did whatever it took to earn some fees.
I doubt that a new lawyer today could start a practice the way we did. Most are saddled with huge student loans, and the courts here in Arizona now require all lawyers to file electronically. A used typewriter and a ordinary phone won’t suffice. Computers, cell phones, faxes, copiers, Lexis or WestLaw for on-line research have all become necessities. Simply buying the basics requires a big investment upfront and monthly service contracts.
After the initial excitement and fun, we had to knuckle down and work of course. Like all lawyers we had good clients and bad; good outcomes and some that weren’t so good. Gradually my partners went on to do other things. One went into law enforcement. Another became a judge. I left private practice after about eight years and became a ward of the state—first working as an Assistant Prosecuting Attorney and later as a Deputy Public Defender. Criminal law is always interesting, sometimes heart-breaking but more often hilarious, regardless of which side you’re on.
So it wasn’t an easy decision to become “inactive”. But since I’m retired and not working as a lawyer, I couldn’t justify the extra cost just to remain active in name. I thought of all the beads I could buy with the savings. Besides, I didn’t delete my legal knowledge; I just gave up the privilege of representing other people.
Today I’m doing some consulting, and I’m dabbling in another venture—making and selling jewelry as “Desert Dabbler”. Both of which involve more sitting and thinking. Guess I really am inactive.
*I am still officially active in Ohio because the two states have different reporting times.