I was not remarkably productive as a profit-making unit despite working long hours, because I could never bring myself to bill the client for all the time I spent. Thus, I got into a situation in which my hours billed statistics looked like merely reasonable hours, and yet my time spent was all-consuming of my life. I was so miserable sometimes that I dreamed of changing fields. I liked my practice well enough, but I hated being that rumpled, poorly shaven somewhat misfit guy who was always exhausted.
I met my situation not with courage, though, but with self-deception. In law school, I had realized early on that lawyers in small, consumer-oriented firms had lives with reasonable work hours and a real service orientation. I spent two summers working for just such a small firm. But after law school, I took a highly paid job, and I became too addicted to the money. I had bought a home after doing inadequate research, and a Dallas economic bust sent its value plummeting. In fact, I could have sold it and paid the shortfall from my savings, but I convinced myself that I was "trapped", because I seemed to revel in the melodrama of being able to keep from improving my life by changing firms. Eventually, I became a difficult person to work with, very demanding and very stressed. Secretaries would work to avoid having me assigned as their boss, because I was so demanding.
One tiny incident fills me with shame and symbolizes so much of that era. Our firm had an SF office then. One night, after a long day of work on a matter pending in SF, I returned to the SF office.
I was starving. Now SF is a place in which restaurants diverse and wonderful are always a short walk away. But I spotted that one of the fellows had a gift basket of chocolates he had received. Although he was not there, I actually opened his gift basket and
began to eat his chocolate. I did not eat it all, and I apologized the next day, but it was clear to me and to him that I had considered his property available to me because I was in a position of greater authority. The sheer arrogance of my believing that my stress and busy schedule justified invading his space staggers me.
I of course offered to replace it, but he of course declined. I have felt in his debt ever since. It's a tiny thing--and yet it gives me an "is this the dagger I see before me" every day.