M. Gray Styers, Jr.
Tenth J.D. Bar President and Wake County Bar Association
ONE OF MY FAVORITE ASPECTS of living in North Carolina is the four distinct seasons that we enjoy. I find comfort that "to everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven” and am re-energized by the changing view through my office window.
In the season of this issue of the Wake Bar Flyer, I enjoy the annual display of daffodils that announce the arrival of Spring. I am also reminded of a story about "Ms. Jarrett,” as I heard told by UCC Minister Lillian Daniel:
Ms. Jarrett was known throughout the county for her elaborate parties – characterized by her impeccable taste and flawless execution. She planned her parties months in advance, and the upcoming party, celebrating the first day of spring, was no exception. The previous November, she had planted hundreds of daffodils throughout the natural landscaped areas of her yard. She visualized with anticipation the sight of hundreds of bright yellow daffodils in full bloom, as guests arrived for her party the following March.
She did not, however, anticipate that the winter would be colder than usual, that it would drag long past February, with unseasonably cool and dry weather delaying the sprouting of her many daffodil bulbs. The first of March arrived only three weeks prior to the party – with nary a sprout in sight. She began to panic; how could she host a spring garden party without a yard full of flowers?
When the day of the party arrived, the guests "oohed” and "ahhed” at the sudden appearance of a yard covered with bright, yellow daffodils. No other spring flowers could be seen anywhere in town . . . except in Ms. Jarrett’s yard. Her guests were amazed at all the flowers welcoming the first day of spring, especially after such a long cold winter.
The next day, however, the daffodils all started to wilt, and their flowers were not as bright as on the day of the party. That night – if anyone had ventured into Ms. Jarrett’s yard – they might have seen her, flashlight in hand, frantically gathering all of the cut daffodils that she had purchased from the wholesale florist and stuck over chopsticks sticking up from the ground. There were, in fact, no live daffodils blooming in Ms. Jarrett’s yard, but rather several hundred cut, greenhouse blossoms carefully arranged to create the illusion that she had intended.
In our careers, we may be tempted, like Ms. Jarrett, to create the illusion of success by doing the equivalent as sticking cut, greenhouse daffodils over chopsticks. We may see others whose practices appear to be thriving with showy blossoms for all to admire.
It is not, however, the seasonal blossoms that will sustain a career over a course of a lifetime, but rather the hardy bulb – unseen and underground – that sustains the flower, year-end and year-out, through cold weather and hot, through drought and flood, waiting for the right conditions to push their sprouts toward the sunlight, but dependably producing flowers year after year.
Like that bulb, the sustaining, fundamental principles that nourish our law practices may not be the showiest part of the plant. They are, I believe, comprised of our core values as attorneys – our credibility and candor to the court; our independent judgment and ability to tell clients what they sometimes don’t want to hear; our pro bono representation and commitment to public service; our reputation – hopefully, for fairness, civility, and sound judgment. Like the bulb below the surface of the ground, these characteristics don’t attract a lot of attention, don’t grab headlines, don’t make for exciting television, and probably won’t bring us fame and fortune. But like the relationship of the perennial bulb to the seasonal flower, they are essential for long-term happiness and success over a long career. Without them, I do not believe we can withstand, in the long run, changing economic climates, the pressures of demanding clients, and the temptation of short-term gains that are inevitably part of everyone’s career choices.
I am pleased that we have committees of the Wake County Bar Association that help nurture those "bulbs” – our Professionalism Committee, Public Service Committee, Summer Programs Committee, just to name a few – cultivating the soil for them to thrive in. Many of our programs of our other committees – the swearing-in ceremony for new attorneys, our CLEs, our lunch and breakfast programs, our endowment scholarships, our professionalism award – provide fertilizer, water, and sunshine to enable those bulbs to sprout and bloom. As you drive to and from your office and see the many daffodils, tulips, and other spring flowers bringing color to our landscape, remember "Ms. Jarrett”...and the bulbs beneath the ground...and the values that bring meaning and long-term success to our careers as attorneys. WBF