The Lawyer and the Love Sandwich
This year for my birthday I gave myself the gift of hernia surgery.
I cannot say it was the most fun gift ever, but still, I am grateful.
Technically what I had was an Inguinal Hernia Repair – the awful name suggests the unpleasantness of the procedure – and I came away with not only a reinforced abdominal wall but also some valuable Law Lessons and the World’s Best BLT Sandwich.
Here’s hoping this story will add a little brightness to Your Law Life too.
Law Lesson #1: Do you know why you’re here?
I arrived at the hospital for my procedure at the crack of dawn, to be cheerfully greeted by an admitting clerk.
“Could you tell me your name and date of birth please?”
I told her.
“And tell me Mr. Reeves,” she said. “Do you know why you’re here at the hospital this morning?”
The wise guy in me almost said, to pick up a pizza. But the anxious guy said, for an Inguinal Hernia Repair. Which was the correct answer, because it got me a wristband and a second clerk, just as cheery as the first, who asked me to tell her my name and date of birth, and also:
“Mr. Reeves do you know why you’re here?”
And for the next hour, as I moved from admitting to pre-op to anesthesia to the Oz-like surgical chamber, I was asked this same question by different people – some asking robotically, some perkily, some reading off their clipboard – right up to Dr. Charles the surgeon himself, leaning over me.
“Do you know why you’re here?”
At first I thought they were testing my sanity. I had glimpsed my reflection – blue hair bonnet askew, facemask sideways, eyes blinking and bugging without my glasses – and could understand their concern.
But after a while, the questions became comforting. Each time I verbalized my name and date of birth I felt acknowledged. Here I am, ready to go. Each time I vocalized the procedure – Inguinal Hernia Repair – I felt less anxious. Naming it made it less threatening.
Law Lesson #2: The quicker you’re back home, the happier.
Mere hours after surgery, I was having a delightful lunch with my family at Merritt’s Grill in Chapel Hill. Talk about fast service. I was in and out of the hospital so quickly we should have left the car running.
I appreciated the speedy turnaround. I was happy to be outside in the Carolina spring sunshine, enjoying the incomparable bliss of an award-winning Merritt’s BLT sandwich.
Clients appreciate a speedy turnaround as well.
They want their questions answered, their problem solved, their life improved, and they want it done quickly – or right now, even. That may or may not be something you can do or want to do. It may not even be possible.
But it is wise to remember clients want the situation taken care of, and then they want to go back home to their lives (and maybe stop for a BLT on the way).
Law Lesson #3: Minor surgery is what happens to somebody else.
Hernia repairs are fairly common, especially for men my age. Hospitals do them routinely. Still, in the words of basketball great Bill Walton: “It’s only minor surgery when they’re operating on someone else, not you.”
Let us not think of our work solely in terms of cases: big cases, little cases. Major cases, minor cases. Our clients are living, breathing people. To them, there’s only one case that matters: theirs.
Bonus Lesson #4: The secret BLT ingredient.
Merritt’s specialty is its acclaimed BLT. If you’ve never bitten into the hefty handful of sourdough bread, juicy tomato, and savory slabs of bacon, I lack the wordsmithing skills to describe the experience. The menu calls it “The Love Sandwich.” One bite and you’re in love.
The Love Sandwich that afternoon was even lovelier than usual because my youngest daughter Mary Ann was back home in Chapel Hill after years away. Everyone was excited and happy. The meal was infused with a positive, healing energy.
Over the next few days Mary Ann took care of me, as I had cared for her and her siblings so often, so long ago.
It was a full-circle moment. It was what we yearn for in all our important relationships – doctor and patient, lawyer and client, father and daughter – the joy of being of service to others, the comfort of being cared for in return.
About the Author
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.Read More by Jay >