Without a doubt, it has been a wonderful 35 years. From the days of wearing stockings and high-heels in the city, to sporting the finest of mud splatters in the country, I have been truly fortunate to love what I do.

As a trial attorney, I have learned that even though there may not be two sides to every story, there is certainly always a back story. I have learned that there is an often unknown constellation of measures that has brought a courtroom filled with polarized people together.

It has been my role to understand that back story, and to tell it to the judge or jury so that they can make the most informed decision possible.

Folks have often asked me over the years, how I could have represented some of my more nefarious clients. My response has always been that I am proud to be a part of a legal system where a fair trial is guaranteed to all. All of my clients have told me stories about their lives that have touched my own and made me richer for the knowing. Some of their stories could easily become page-turning novels had I the ability to share them honestly, but confidence there is ever so paramount.

And then after a trial, folks have often asked if I won. I have learned to smile and simply reply that justice was done. Early on, for the first five or 10 years, I would win a case when I thought for certain that I would lose or I would lose a verdict when I knew that I had a winning case.

In short, it took me some time to realize that I do not win or lose. It took me time to realize that I have really been just a small part of the process, and I so I learned not to predict and not to take credit or fault. I have merely done my very best, and then stepped back, and let the system do what it does best.

I remember when the children were little how we would all sit around the dining room table after dinner as they did their homework, and I got ready for the next day’s trial. When their schools would call the office to say that one or the other child was ill and needed to come home, my dear partner of 21 years was often the one to rush out and pick them up. There was a special place behind my desk, good for snuggling up, wrapping in my long lawyer trench coat, and feeling better.

I remember how one pre-teen son spent the whole day on a bench in the back of courtroom, though I do not recall quite why, and when the jury exited to deliberate, the other lawyer approached him and told my son that his mother had just kicked this lawyer’s proverbial posterior, in not quite so many words. My son proudly told me of the encounter. I smiled, and today I do not remember the case or the verdict.

And there have been many times when, after the verdict or sentence has been read, that my clients have turned to me to ask what has just happened, as a look of uncertain dread spreads across their face. This is a look that I will never forget. This moment is a part of their story, a moment and a story that has now become a part of mine.

It really has been an amazing 35 years, filled with wonder and so much learning, but as this new year dawns, it occurs to me that it is time to look forward to a new chapter in my life.

I have let my daughter rifle through my closet and take any clothes and scarves that she might want to wear in her professional life back east. I will forego active membership in the state bar, give up my malpractice insurance, and wholeheartedly adopt a new identity, that of retirement.

Folks have asked what I will do now that I am retired. Ah, retirement may well mean “the act of leaving one’s job and ceasing to work,” but I will hardly cease to work.

The eggs will still need gathering, the horses and goats tending, the homers and ducks loving, the rabbits bred, and the dogs walked along the creek. And then there is the stable that still needs to be built, the old tobacco barn that must be taken down and a new one constructed, the fences mended, the outside landscaping on the log house to be finished, my garden to be planted and the fields tilled, and oh yes … more stories to write!

So, as this new year dawns, I am so excitedly looking forward to this next phase of my life. And of course, as this new year dawns, I truly wish each and every one of you the very best.