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Finding the Passion in Practicing Law

Last week I helped a friend with her small claims appeal.  Even though they call it an “appeal,” a small claims appeal is really a rehearing.  At the initial hearing, she lost and owed the plaintiff almost $6,000.  I thought the law was in her favor and knew if it could be carefully explained to the judge, she would win.  I also knew that I was more experienced at making those arguments, so I volunteered to represent her.  We won and she was very happy.  I have worked on cases involving many millions of dollars, but I worked on this $6,000 claim as if the same amount was at issue.  To my client, that was a substantial amount of money and I really wanted to help her.  When the judge ruled in her favor, I felt relieved and happy that I could remove the burden of this judgment off her shoulders.  Those are the times when I feel satisfied in helping people. 

Several years ago I won an appeal, Plotnik v. Meihaus.  In that case, the Court of Appeal confirmed the right of a pet owner to sue for emotional distress when another person intentionally harms or kills a pet.  It was a very gratifying win for me and I received more publicity and letters on that case than on any other case in my entire career.  Well, my 15 minutes of fame was over, or so I thought.  I recently received an e-mail from retired attorney Sandy Toye, who previously specialized in handling animal-related matters.  She wrote: 

                “A friend of mine recently informed me of Plotnik v. Meihaus.  I just wanted to thank you for accomplishing something I spent my entire professional career trying to accomplish . . . It means so much to all animal lovers and to me personally.  You are truly a hero and an inspiration.  Thank you.” 

That letter made my day and reminded me once again of why I do what I do.  There is a sense of accomplishment in being able to help people, and in this case, pets.  (My dog expects no less from me.)  Knowing there are now potential consequences (big $$$) for harming animals might dissuade some from inflicting such harm.  For that I am happy.