Why General Practice?
My first job as an attorney was with a law firm that handled injury claims: workers compensation, personal injury, Social Security, and the like. I was interested in helping people and this seemed like a good fit. I had my first jury trial experience in this job. I was also becoming involved in community affairs and realized that I wanted to broaden the scope of the legal work I did. So I left and next went to work for a general practice attorney in San Mateo.
I enjoyed the work, and eventually went out on my own, but wasn’t seeing the inside of a courtroom very much. So I joined the Private Defender Program in San Mateo County. This allowed me to stay in private practice and got me appointed to represent indigents in criminal matters. This gave me lots of courtroom experience, including many jury trials over the following years.
As my family grew, though, I needed steadier income. I also wanted more civil litigation and trial experience. I found a job with what is known as an insurance defense firm. I was with them for 10 years, half as an associate and half as a partner. I worked in a variety of fields: personal injury defense, construction defect litigation, employment and business law and litigation, and many other areas of the law. My inclination for variety in my work never went away. Indeed, I remember overhearing one of my partners tell another, the one who decided on case assignments: “Give it to Will, he’ll figure it out.” As the business climate for insurance companies changed in the mid 90s, however, and getting work from insurance companies became more competitive, I made a conscious decision to return to private practice.
In considering my options, I decided to return to my roots, so to speak, to the general practice of law. It was then my opinion, and still is, that the average person does not need a legal “specialist” to help them. More importantly, they needed an honest, competent attorney who understands them, especially how their lives relate to and are affected by the legal problem they face.
Estate Plans – Review and Update Them
If you already have an estate plan, consider having it reviewed. If you completed your estate plan a number of years ago, it may be time to have it reviewed. For example, changes in the federal estate tax exemption have eliminated the need to create what are known as A/B or Bypass and Survivor trusts after the first spouse dies. There is now new trust language for married couple trusts that can virtually eliminate the need for interim administration of the trust after the first person passes away.
People’s families, lives, relationships and circumstances change with the passage of time. Is your “dispositive intent” still the same? Maybe you now have grandchildren you want to make special provision for. Perhaps the individuals you have designated as the executor of your will and successor trustee of your trust are no longer available; or are no longer the person you want.
Do you have a durable power of attorney for financial affairs? This document, along with your trust and a health care directive can reduce the need for a conservatorship, giving you flexibility in choosing to live at home for as long as possible. This is a document that can and, in many cases, should be coordinated with language in your trust.
Perhaps you have moved here from another state. Your estate plan may not need any changes. You won’t know until you check. Perhaps your attorney is no longer available to help your loved ones with the administration of your estate after you are gone. Having your estate plan reviewed by a new attorney is one way to help make the process smoother when the time comes.
Attorney and Author
I have been writing much longer than I have been an attorney. My interests are far broader than the latest supreme court decision in a particular field. Certainly, as a general practice attorney, I need to keep current in a wide variety of areas of the law. I love to learn, to read, to argue. All good qualities in an attorney. As an attorney, I also need to be able to understand different sides to any issue or argument.
I’ve been writing poetry and prose, stories, musings, and vignettes far longer than I have been writing briefs and motions. As my creative writing developed and progressed over the years, I found that it focused more often than not on issues of growing old and death. It seems that I have had occasion to deal with death and loss in my personal life more than the average person, often up close and personal. So in 2017 after some limited prior attempts I decided to get serious about compiling, writing and publishing my first book, A Life Well Lived, A Death Will Met, a book of musings and insights on my relationship and observations about aging, death and dying. And, I have continued writing. We will see what comes next.