TBA Law Blog

Posted by: William Haltom on Nov 23, 2011

Journal Issue Date: Dec 2011

Journal Name: December 2011 - Vol. 47, No. 12

To: Santa T. Claus, The North Pole

Dear Santa: I’ve been a good 59-year-old lawyer this year. I haven’t always been nice, but I don’t think I’ve ever been what you would call “naughty.” I’ve tried to be a good family man this year. I’ve driven my daughter to school each morning and then headed to the office in an effort to earn enough money practicing law to pay the banker, the grocer, the pediatrician, the dentist, and several other folks, including you.

I’ve come straight home for dinner every night, and while, like most lawyers, I spend Saturday mornings at the office, I’ve spent most of the remainder of my weekends chauffeuring my daughter to sports practices or games, church youth group events, and numerous other extracurricular activities.

Well, okay, I admit it. I have spent many Saturday afternoons this fall on my couch watching the Tennessee Vols lose football games. And yes, Santa, when I’ve done so, I’ve sometimes yelled at my TV screen using “naughty” language.

I’ve taken my wife out on a date on most Saturday nights. She has been my standing Saturday night date now for more than 30 years. We are a regular Barney and Thelma Lou.

And on Sunday mornings, I haul the family to church, although I admit that sometimes during the sermon rather than paying attention to the minister, I make notes about what I gotta do at work during the coming week. But believe me, Santa, I’ve never billed an hour while sitting in church. Honest.

I haven’t always been the father, husband, or lawyer I should be. I’ve lost my temper from time to time and shown my fanny (metaphorically speaking) to other lawyers. Hey, I’m a trial lawyer! It’s a battle!

But while I’m neither Billy Graham nor Atticus Finch, I’ve tried to be a good boy this year. So when you’re making a list and checking it twice, please show some mercy and put me down in the “nice” category.

I’ve given a lot of thought about what I would like for you to bring me on Christmas Eve. Nearly 50 years ago when I was a little boy, making a Christmas wish list was easy. I would just turn to the toy section of the Sears and Roebuck catalog (a/k/a “The Wish Book”) where I would see glorious pictures of train sets, footballs and bicycles.

And then I would write you a letter, politely requesting one “big ticket item” and a few smaller items. I would always give the letter to my Dad to mail to you. It was only years later that I learned that not only did Dad mail you the letter; in early January each year, you would mail a bill back to him.

Now it ain’t easy coming up with a Christmas wish list when you are a 59-year-old lawyer. For one thing, they don’t publish the Wish Book anymore. And for another, I’ve now become the Dad who gets your bill in January, so I realize that whatever I order will come with a price tag.

However, I do have a short wish list this year. For what it is worth, dear Santa, here goes! First, Santa, please bring me one of them electric legal pads. Every time I go either to court or to a deposition these days, I’m embarrassed. I’m the only guy in the conference room or courtroom who still makes notes on yellow lined paper. All the other lawyers have fancy shmancy electric pads. They look remarkably like the “Etch-a-Sketch” you brought me for Christmas in 1962.

I’m not sure how these electric legal pads work, but if it’s like my old Etch-a-Sketch, it should be no problem. (You erase it by shaking it, right?)

Second, please bring me one of those really smart phones like an Eye Phone or Blackberry or a Raspberry. I already have a cell phone, but it’s just a walkie talkie, much like the portable telephone George C. Scott used on the battlefield in Patton.

The young lawyers in my office all have these fancy smart phones that come equipped with teeny-tiny typewriters that they can use to send and receive email.

My clients now all insist that I communicate by email. I actually know how to do that while sitting in my office, since my desktop computer (an IBM PC that you brought me for Christmas in 1982) has a real typewriter keyboard, just like the Olivetti Underwood typewriter you brought me for Christmas in 1969.

But now my clients expect me to send them emails when I’m sitting in a deposition or in a courtroom or at church during the minister’s sermon. Now I don’t know how you type on such a little teeny-tiny keyboard inside your phone, but believe me, Santa, I’m willing to learn.

Finally, dear Santa, if at all possible, I would appreciate it if you would send me one or two “silent nights” between Christmas and New Year’s Eve. Like most lawyers, I’ve been working my butt off this year to make a living, particularly when the legislature is trying to put me out of bidness. (By the way, Santa, I guess it would be asking too much for me to request you do something about that.) In any event, I could use a little rest in the last few days of the year before I start climbing that legal mountain again in January.

Well, Santa, I’ll let you get back to checking your list and supervising the elves in the toy factory. I understand that the legislature has passed a law prohibiting the elves from engaging in collective bargaining, so that certainly has to help you with the bottom line.

And speaking of the bottom line, I’d better get back to work so that I’ll be ready for your bill next month.

Thanks, Santa!

Your friend,

P.S. I still believe.

Bill Haltom BILL HALTOM is a partner with the Memphis firm of Thomason, Hendrix, Harvey, Johnson & Mitchell. He is past president of the Tennessee Bar Association and is a past president of the Memphis Bar Association.