Here’s a modest proposal: every law school should start teaching a course in lifting and moving heavy objects.
The class could be taught by adjunct faculty from U-Haul, Mayflower and All My Sons. Hand trucks and work gloves would replace laptops and textbooks. Students who shine would make Lug Review.
Our profession collectively – and our Law Lives individually – would be better off as a result.
Unfortunately, although I attended the finest law school in South Carolina (disclosure: also, the only one at the time), it offered no such course.
Fortunately, I didn’t need it, having been mentored at the age of 15 by a veritable Zen master of elevating and transporting things of significant weight.
The Wisdom of Henry
His name was Henry and he supervised the supply shed for the Williamsburg County School District. By supervised, I mean he was the only worker there. That is, until I showed up.
“Henry,” said my father. “Meet your new helper.”
“Great,” said Henry.
This was in the summer of 1972, the year that gave the world ABBA, Pong, and Dwayne (The Rock) Johnson. My father was deputy superintendent for county schools. He called this gig a summer job, but really it was punishment. How else to describe being banished to a sweltering aluminum warehouse to haul boxes, furniture and classroom supplies?
And then I met Henry, my supervisor and soon-to-be mentor.
Henry’s Rule #1: Size is Not Strength
Henry was a colorful figure around town who wore odd hats, rode a bicycle, and was always upbeat. He had been supervising the supply shed – and doing it impeccably – for years. He kept the cement floor spotless and knew at any given time the exact contents of every carton and container in the place.
Also: he was an incredible mover. All day long he would move chairs and filing cabinets and crates of all weights, shapes and sizes without ever tiring. This was so even though he was wiry, not a large man at all, and close to my parents’ age.
Which brings us to Henry’s Rule #1: Size is Not Strength.
I was encouraged by this rule, being of smallish stature myself. So I set out to prove its truth. I marched over to a stack of boxes on the loading dock, bent to grab an impressive one, stood up, and promptly dropped it on my foot. This put me out of commission for the rest of the day and introduced me to ….
Henry’s Rule #2: Get a good grip.
It’s hard to move something from here to there if you are barely hanging on to it.
Having learned this lesson, I was careful with the next box to get down on its level and shimmy and maneuver it for a better grasp.
“Watch out,” cried Henry, and rushed over to prevent a teetering pile from collapsing onto my cranium.
And so I learned ….
Henry’s Rule #3: Look up to see if something’s falling.
One afternoon I recall eyeing with despair a massive, plywood-encased container sitting on a pallet dropped off by a tractor trailer.
“How do we move that thing?” I asked.
“We don’t,” said Henry. “We call them to come get it.”
And thus, Henry’s Rule #4: Don’t move it if you don’t have to.
Followed by similar revelations like: Do not go backwards (Rule #5), Stairs are tricky (Rule #6), Take a break (Rule #7), and …
Henry’s Rule #8: Don’t try to lift it by yourself.
Lawyers and legal professionals deal with heavy things all day.
They carry boulders of stress and anxiety. They trudge up mountains of expectations. They are burdened by perfectionism, procrastination, imposter syndrome, compassion fatigue, Zoom fatigue, you name it.
And often there is an elephant in the office – addiction, mental health issues, toxic behavior – that has gotten so big and been there so long nobody talks about it anymore, much less knows how to move it out.
Which is why Henry was so great.
Sometimes, especially at the end of an exhausting day, I would be struggling with one last box. I had a good grip. I was going forward. But I was too tired. It was too much.
As always, Henry came to my rescue, with Henry’s Rule #9: Just put the box down.
Jay Reeves practiced law in North Carolina and South Carolina and is author of The Most Powerful Attorney in the World. He runs Your Law Life LLC, which helps lawyers and firms improve their well-being and create saner, more successful law lives. He is available for talks, presentations and confidential consultations.