Lessons Learned From the Front–Conscious Actions and Meaningful Work

I want to introduce you to my friend and colleague, Tom Cox. However you cut it, Tom’s a pretty impressive guy.  After playing both varsity basketball and baseball for the University of Tennessee, he attended Harvard University, where he graduated with a law degree in 1976.  Tom then moved back to Atlanta where, over the course of the next 4 decades, he became one of Georgia’s most prominent and well respected education lawyers.Cox, Tom

As impressive as all of this may sound, what makes Tom really special is that throughout this distinguished career, Tom has always cared deeply about lawyers and particularly how lawyers can be successful in their practices and, at the same time, find real meaning in their lives.  Tom’s wife, Penny Nash, is an ordained Episcopal priest, and Tom himself has served on the vestry and as senior warden at his home church in Atlanta.  He is one of the founders of “Faithful Lawyers”, a group of Atlanta attorneys who have met regularly for the last 6 years to discuss matters of religion, ethics, meaning and belief.

Tom has graciously agreed to write a series of blog posts for Lawyers in Search of Soul in which he discusses a few of the things that he has learned over the years that have made it possible for him to practice law with less anxiety and isolation.  Many of these lessons, as you will read, were learned the hard way…all the more reason for us to give these short posts a little thoughtful attention.

Below is Tom’s introduction to the series.  I will be publishing the first of his posts within the next few days.  Stay tuned for some really, really good stuff.

Mike Ethridge has graciously invited me to serve as a guest blogger here. I hope I will offer something to justify his decision. But first, two confessions: (1) for many years, I was miserable in the practice of law; (2) In recent years, I have continued to practice law and have almost never been miserable and, in fact, have usually felt quite fulfilled.
I do not know which of those two confessions causes me more discomfort. After all, who among us has not occasionally felt some measure of satisfaction and accomplishment for having survived yet another misery-filled day accompanied by various stressors, whether caused by client demands, impending deadlines, battles with hostile opposing counsel, or billed hour requirements that seem to eliminate the possibility of maintaining a semblance of a sane personal life? How often have we heard (or even told) “war stories” in which an 80-hour work week or a canceled vacation or a missed family event is presented as a tale of woe, yet at the same time the supposed deprivation is obviously worn as a badge of professional pride?
For now, however, I will assume that most of us, most of the time, do not relish practicing law in a constant state of anxiety or depression or isolation, and that we aspire to live meaningful personal lives while maintaining fulfilling and even successful legal careers. My intent here will be to offer a series of posts sharing some of my own perspectives about conscious actions (and sometimes inactions) we can engage in that may help us as practicing lawyers move a few steps forward on the “journey toward wholeness” that Mike has established as the premise for this blog.

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