Just as none of Magnus’ clients retain us for easy cases, none of our clients retain us for anything remotely happy. In order for Magnus to become involved with an attorney and his/her client, something terrible has happened. We have worked on cases involving tragic deaths, including murder and multiple fatalities in accidents; horrific burns; sexual assault, including of children; amazing incompetence, leading to professional malpractice (such as medical and legal malpractice); failures of huge organizations, such as banks; and the loss of billions and billions of dollars. Our professional existence is not a happy one. By this, I mean to say our business exists to help attorneys and their clients through some of the worst things that can happen to someone. The documents I read and the photographs I see when preparing for a client’s case sometimes depict, with graphic detail, things that are horrible beyond anything I have ever before seen, let alone contemplated. David and I have learned to vet prospective employees about their tolerance for negative events; we have had some employees with weak stomachs and other sensitivities that caused them great distress. When people ask me if I enjoy reading or watching legal thrillers, I explain that I do not, due to the fact that my job requires me to think about many things most people never consider. When I am off work, I prefer to listen to music, read about happy things, enjoy spending time with my cat and my plants, and do just about anything I can think of to take my mind off my work. Don’t get me wrong; I enjoy my work and I enjoy helping people achieve a positive outcome when they have experienced negligence or other wrongdoing, but at the same time, I need a break from this part of my life from time to time. No one ever hires Magnus for a happy event and I doubt anyone ever will.
My mother once asked why I didn’t make a calendar of nice things instead of courthouses (which I did for 20 years). She said she thinks only bad things happen in courthouses. We then had a discussion about the good things that happen there such as weddings, and, most importantly, people seeking and getting justice. As Melissa points out, when we’re retained on a case, something bad has usually happened – even if it is only about money. But it is often a happy day when the case is resolved, when justice is served (not that it always is). The results may be bittersweet in that something bad occurred to put one there in the first place. And, having been a litigant, I know the stresses of litigation. These litigation events have been unpleasant, stressful – the keep you up at night kind of stressful, and distracting. Even when one is in the right, litigation is not a happy thing. I can’t think of any clients we’ve had who ever thought it was. They, as did I, realized it was needed, but it is not happy. I have explained the personal costs of litigation to acquaintances or friends who have talked about “too many frivolous lawsuits.” We don’t see any frivolity in our clients’ cases. So, I explain this fact, and that being a litigant is not easy, not happy or stress free, to attempt to explain that it is a serious undertaking. Necessary and worthwhile, but not happy or fun. This reinforces the need for those who work in this world of litigation to find ways to relieve stress in a positive way – some hobbies and outside interests are healthy ways of dealing with the often unhappy situations around which we work.