Every career is bound to have its ups and its downs, heights of love and joy and valleys of dislike and despair. And an end. That has been the story of my career as a practicing lawyer, over the years of representing hundreds if not thousands of victims of accidents and discrimination. Lost some, won some, settled most, took some cases I never should have taken, been lied to by clients and had other clients burst into my office to hug and thank me, and even one who, tears in his eyes, interrupted me in a deposition to thank me for advice which he said saved his life. All in all, it has been a good ride.
The law has treated me well, and I believe I have treated my clients professionally and well.
I was sworn in as an active member of the State Bar of California on January 4, 1967 before a Federal Judge in Washington D.C. Today, after 49 years and 25 days as an active member of the State Bar of California, my decision to become an inactive member of the bar became effective. An inactive attorney is not permitted to represent clients. I did not take on any new clients since I closed up my office nearly 8 years ago, but by remaining as an active member, paying my dues each year and accumulating 25 units of continuing education every three years, I remained legally able to accept new clients should the opportunity arise. Not just any client, mind you, but I was ready, willing and able to take on the million dollar case if it walked in the door. Well, maybe.
Maybe because if such case had walked in the door, I would have had to invest hundreds, if not thousands of hours of work, incur expenses in the six figures to finance the case properly, and suffer many stressful days and sleepless nights. Been there. Done that.
Practiced law actively for 49 years and finally got it right. Time for inactivity.But inactivity did not happen.
When I closed and locked the door to my law office, I did not have time to linger, look back or entertain second thoughts about retiring Gough & Company, Attorneys at Law. Two weeks after walking out of my office in Jack London Square for the last time, I woke up in Goma, Democratic Republic of Congo, on my first trip in conjunction with Global Strategies for HIV Prevention (renamed now as Global Strategies) and Heal Africa to explore establishment of legal clinics for women who had been raped. Working with Congolese men, women--nurses, physicians, activists, pastors and attorneys and many others gave me joy and satisfaction equal to if not greater than hearing the foreperson of a jury read a verdict in favor of my client.
I'll stay busy. I will continue to conduct mediations. To assist litigants to settle their disputes without the time, expense and uncertainty of trial is immensely rewarding. I served as a board member of Global Strategies as long as the by-laws permitted, and more pro bono work is in sight. A year ago I finished my book (see www.dearjeffbook.com) and now I am in the midst of some other writing, including this blog.
So while I may be officially inactive in the eyes of the State Bar, I certainly don’t intend to be passive. Please note above—I retired Gough & Company; I did not retire Kerry Gough.
So do I have any regrets? Sometimes I think I should have stayed in active status one more year, and make it 50 years. There’s something magic about the number 50. But for now I will enjoy the magic of 49, a rather special number for Californians and football fans. I will wait to celebrate the magic of 50 when Leila and I reach our 50th wedding anniversary on May 19, 2040. Save the date!
Forever the optimist, Kerry