As I write this column, my husband and I are preparing to bring our second child—a boy—into this world. We have decided to name him Samuel George Smith. (Yes, I am one of those women who didn’t change my last name.) George, after my late dad, George Roland. My dad was a fierce defender of the Constitution—the best. I now know and appreciate the blood, sweat, and tears that he invested in his work and its meaning. The soon-to-be birth of my son has me thinking a lot about legacies—the ones we leave behind, the ones we create, the ones we pass on.
As criminal defense lawyers, we all want people to remember that we were fierce defenders of our Constitution, formidable opponents of the State, and made a lasting difference. That’s a given—ingrained in each of us. What else though?
I attended Texas Bluebonnet Girls’ State the summer before my senior year of high school and incidentally the last summer I had with my dad. The camp was a whole 10 days long. I had never been away from home that long before, and I did not know another soul attending. My parents knew I was nervous, and they sent me mail throughout the week. I have 3 letters from my dad written on legal paper in his trademark black marker, no doubt while he was waiting during court (we are all familiar with the “hurry up and wait” reality that plagues our profession). I have carried these letters with me both literally and figuratively ever since:
As long as it’s right don’t be afraid to do it. As long as it’s right and necessary don’t be afraid to strike as hard as you can—always hard but never foul or unethically—nor when it’s not necessary. Win, but win fairly.
Lawyers are in the best position—by virtue of their education, talent, and positions of influence—to positively address the challenges that our society faces. Perhaps it is our debt to those who came before us and our gift to those who will follow—
When I re-read these letters now, I read my dad’s words with Ellie and Sam in mind. My prayer, above all, is that they are happy and healthy, and that I am a good example for them and a good mom to them.
I talked to Jamie Carrillo several days ago, and Buck Files recently wrote about his scary health experience. There is no question—life is precious. Every single day counts. All too often our profession is thankless and lonely; in turn it’s easy to become that way. Let’s not. Let’s be positive and purposeful. Let’s be honest and empathetic. Let’s help others. Let’s build each other up and share the credit. After all, we are all in this together. Let’s not pass on a moment to tell the people we love and appreciate how we feel. Let’s leave the world a better place for our children.