“When everything goes to hell, the people who stand by you without flinching – they are your family.Jim Butcher
Wow. 2020 has been quite the year. The weather, the social unrest, the presidential campaign, and, of course, the pandemic have taken their collective toll on us. We are tired, and perhaps we are a bit broken.
In addition to the 2020 pain we all share, my own 2020 has also been marked by a sequence of personal tragedies. My “very bad year” really started on Christmas Eve of 2019 when I witnessed a horrific accident that cost the life of a precious ten-year-old. I will spare the details of that unspeakable tragedy, but it set in motion a year of heartache. My family and I have also had a series medical issues, and the year has handed us untimely deaths of more close friends and family members than I have lost in all of my other years put together. The apex of my painful year was the week before Thanksgiving when I lost my precious dad and learned that goodbyes are more grueling during the peak of a pandemic. Let’s be real and admit that 2020 is simply going to leave some permanent scars.
But there is a sliver lining on this year’s cloud of disappointment. As is usually the case, difficult times have stripped away pretenses and revealed who we really are . . . and we at LT are a beautiful (albeit mildly dysfunctional) family.
In a year where it would have been easy to throw up our hands, we dug in our heels. When the office doors closed, we brought our work into our homes. Instead of complaining about imperfect systems, we created and shared potential solutions. When new legislation and regulations were being proposed and revised almost hourly, we navigated the unknown and guided our clients. Instead of wringing their hands in panic, our leadership made calm and proactive decisions. There were no layoffs and no missed paychecks at LT. Unlike many firms around us, our priorities shone unmistakably in the dark times. We took care of our clients, and we took care of each other.
Despite its frenzy and frustration, this year proved that “taking care of each other” is not just an LT business model, it is the way we do life. When hand sanitizer and toilet paper were rare and treasured commodities, those of us who had them made sure to provide for our coworkers who did not. (Who knew we would ever celebrate sharing toilet paper as an act of kindness?) When some people were fearful to leave home, coworkers made deliveries to doorsteps. We called each other and texted each other and, well, we just looked for needs and met them.
And for me, the needs this year were greater than they have ever been before. But instead of “work” being a place of stress, you became my escape and provided comfort. My Knoxville folks listened when I was ready to talk, and you gave me advice. You encouraged me when members of my family got sick, and you helped me enlist the best medical care. When I needed to be with my dad, you stepped in and covered my calendar. Heck, you even produced a purple and gold tie overnight when I realized that, in the stress of things, I had failed to properly attire my son for his signing day ceremony.
If there had ever been any question, this year confirmed that my LT family is not limited to my Knoxville tribe of misfits. After losing my dad, I received calls, texts, emails, flowers and other acts from across the state. I was reminded that I have family in Knoxville, Nashville and Memphis who care and have my back. What a blessing it has been to have a support system that runs all the way down Interstate 40.
You see, 2020 has revealed to me that the “LT Family” is not a cliché, a slogan, or a business model. It is a way of life. Like any family, we have our own dysfunction. (And if we are being honest, we would each disown a few family members if we could.) But when times are tough, we take care of each other. Yes, LT has some brilliant lawyers, and we have produced some amazing results for our clients. But, in my opinion, that is not what makes our firm unique. LT is better than the rest because we enjoy the quiet but powerful strength of family.
So, as we look forward to a new year, we will each carry with us the scars from this disaster that was 2020. But I hope that they will become more than just ugly reminders of this difficult year. I hope you will remember the kindness, support, flexibility, grit and dedication that carried us through a difficult season. I sure will, and I will be forever grateful. Of course, there will be moments when we stumble in the days ahead, but, if we harness the strength that is the LT family, I suspect we will not fall.