Welcome back, my young colleague, and first answer this: when you stood inside the South Carolina Supreme Court on the day you were sworn in as an attorney, and when you then signed the formal “enrollment of attorneys” and received your certificate formally admitting you into the profession, did you read the certificate while still inside the Supreme Court building? Have you ever read it?
Here’s how mine begins: “IT APPEARING unto us, That Barry Wayne Knobel has complied with the requirements of the Law of this State in respect to the admission of persons to practice as Attorneys in the Courts of this State, and is duly qualified to act as such….”
That was on November 3, 1973. My certificate of admission was signed by the Chief Justice and the associate justices (all of whom have long since passed away); and I vividly remember that on that day I was wearing a black, pin-striped suit, white shirt and black tie with white polka-dots…and spit-shined shoes. On that auspicious (at least for me) day I absolutely looked the part….but on that same day, and for very, very many days which followed that day, I most certainly did NOT have a clue as to where my legal “roads not taken” would eventually take me; and I didn’t know then whether my choice to become an attorney would become my lifelong “profession”, or my “career”, or my “craft”….or simply the way in which to make enough money to pay my monthly bills, including repaying my law school loans.
And on November 3, 1973, how could the Justices of the South Carolina Supreme Court, along with any of the other thousands of members of the South Carolina Bar Association possibly know that I was “duly qualified” to practice law along side them or in front of them, when I wasn’t at all sure that I was duly qualified (if truth be told – and as I write this – I’m still not so sure)?
Consequently, as we all did then and as brand new attorneys do now, I began practicing law with a sledgehammer. Just slamming my way forward and throwing everything at the “most immediate problem at hand”. I stretched out the Socratic Method like a huge rubber band – arguing my “legal points” based on what little tidbits I could glean from law books while blending those tidbits into my clients’ “versions of the truth”, all the while trying to sound and act like I knew what I was talking about…but while facing much more seasoned and polished attorneys who were constantly “schooling me” on the finer (and most often the correct) points of law and facts involved in the case. And I had my share of those “seasoned attorneys’ tire tracks” running up and down my black pin-striped suit.