New Year's Eve. A time for reflections about the past year and preparation for the New Year. I may do that in another post in the near future, but the title of this post does not refer to the end of the calendar year.
Today is the last day that my law firm - Ross, Dixon & Bell, LLP - will exist. We will be closed for the holiday and over the weekend and will reopen on Monday morning as Troutman Sanders. We will have new computers, be on a new network, have new signs in the elevator lobbies, and I will have hundreds of new partners. Later in the month we will all move across town into the existing Troutman Sanders office space. While there is a lot to look forward to in this transition, today is a day of reflection. A lot of my colleagues are sending emails to everyone expressing their thoughts, but after a while it becomes hard to say it differently without completely violating the socially acceptable limits on the length of an email. So, I turn here, despite the fact that it is unlikely that any of them will read this.
Ross, Dixon & Masback was formed 25 years ago when a few people left another Washington, DC firm to do something different. I did not join the firm until 1997, after practicing with another firm for over three years. By that time, Skip Masback, one of the founders, had heard his calling and left the practice of law to become a preacher. I have met Skip a few times, but I can't say that I really know him.
I have told the story of my decision to join RDM to a lot of recruits over the years. I had decided to leave my old firm and had a lot of interviews with firms in DC. But, the interview at RDM was different. It wasn't just that the first attorney I met with was wearing jeans, on a Tuesday, allegedly because it "looked like it may rain." It wasn't just that one of the senior partners never took his feet off of his desk and ended the interview after ten minutes saying "I've decided that you should get an offer, so why don't we get you to someone else that may want more time." It wasn't just that when I was introduced to Stu Ross in the hallway, he suddenly ran back into his office to put on his shoes and then came back out and said "I can't really meet someone without my shoes on." It wasn't just that another partner instead of asking me about my legal experience and law school asked me about my worst ever summer job and said he was interested in finding people that "got it." It was everything. It was the way that people interacted. It was the way that people were talking to secretaries and paralegals and the folks in the mail room. It was an overall feeling. I remember telling Tracy after the interview - "I really hope that I get an offer."
It turned out that what I experienced during that interview was real. There have definitely been ups and downs over the past 11+ years, but what made it special was the relationships that we have with one another. In trying to explain the atmosphere, I used to tell new attorneys - "I think it would be safer to walk into Stu's office and tell him off than it would be to raise your voice to or mistreat Shirley Banks [our former housekeeper, who sadly died in 2003]." In the time that I have been here, although we have generally stayed at around 50 attorneys in DC, 25 partners and 70 other attorneys associated with the DC office have come and gone. What is amazing is that most have left on very good terms and I think would say that they are better for the time that they spent at the firm. There were many marriages and births. And, sadly, a few deaths.
This firm, first RDM and now Ross, Dixon & Bell, has supported me through some of my darkest personal times (e.g., our first miscarriage) and through some of my brightest days. It has given me opportunities that I almost certainly never would have experienced anywhere else (e.g., the chance to take three months off in 2007) and supported my involvement in community service and missions work (e.g., the partners largely funding the costs associated with taking a 12 person team to Waveland, Mississippi shortly after Katrina). Though the people here are of many different faiths, I think it is very fair to say that we have attempted to heed the advice found in Galatians 6:2 "Carry each other's burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ."
Ultimately, for better or for worse (you can be the judge of that), I am who I am - both as a lawyer and as a person - in part because of this firm. Other than Tracy, my family, and a few friends growing up and some from college, I haven't been associated with anyone or anything for longer than the almost twelve years that I have been part of this firm.
So, today is sad. But, it is really only the institution that is going away. Most (though to my very deep regret not all) of the people are still going to be together. A special place may be going away, but what really made it special is moving on and there is no reason that we can't do the same thing (on an even larger scale) as part of Troutman Sanders.