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Lee Pitts is an independent columnist for The Atascadero News and Paso Robles Press; you can email them at

I had a problem with all this ‘essential’ versus ‘non-essential’ worker stuff, but maybe it was because I was considered a non-essential worker, which is quite a blow to one’s ego. I had no problem with doctors, nurses, firefighters, policemen, and ag workers being considered ‘essential’; after all, we have to eat. But in my home state, Lawyers were considered essential workers. In fact, in the 42 states that issued stay-at-home orders, lawyers were considered ‘essential’ in 12 of them. I was horrified to hear that at a County Supervisor meeting, when it was requested that all essential workers and front line responders stand up and be recognized, our local attorney stood up to a round of applause. On the other hand, I can see his point because, after any car collision or ‘slip-and-slide in the grocery store, the local ambulance-chasing lawyer responds first, even before the paramedics.

Lawyers are the kid everyone makes fun of on the playground. Despite the many good things they do, they can’t get any respect. In Abraham Lincoln’s time, lawyers were so abused and poorly paid they often shared a room with the opposing lawyer in a case, even going so far as to sleep in the same bed. This is where the saying “sleeping with the enemy” came from. And according to the great writer, J. Frank Dobie, Stephen F. Austin hoped to exclude lawyers from his colonies in Texas in an attempt to build a utopian society.

I must admit that every personal experience with lawyers that I’ve had in my life was a good one. The first was with a local attorney who we paid to draw up our wills (dead giveaways), power of attorneys, and Do Not Resuscitate Orders. We knew the attorney through his participation in every community event, including the annual Chamber of Commerce auction, which I auctioneered. The community was shocked when he committed suicide after being caught stealing money from seniors who had entrusted him with their estates. He was buried 12 feet deep instead of the usual eight because deep down, he was a good guy.

The second time we needed a lawyer was when we sold our house and moved to New Mexico. We saw the moving van off with all our possessions and went by the title and escrow company to pick up our check on our way out of town. We were shocked to discover that the doors had been chained with a big padlock. When we called our realtor, he informed us that the owner of the chain of title companies had absconded with $42 million in clients’ money, including ours! The realtor said not to worry that everything would get straightened out, we should let the new owners move into our home, and we’d get our check in the mail the following week.


We waited and waited, and I told a friend that if we ended up going to court that I’d save money by being my own attorney. My friend said that I had a “fool for a client.”

When the new ‘owners’ decided they weren’t going to pay the monthly mortgage payment, property tax, or insurance and planned on living in OUR house rent-free until the case was settled, we got a great lawyer who demanded a $2,500 retainer to engage the services of Dewey Cheatum’ and Howe. Two years later, we finally got our day in court, and the judge gave a preliminary judgment that if he were issuing a final decision that all of us packed into the courtroom would get our real estate back. That sent all the lawyers into a great big huddle, and after paying $8,000 in legal fees, we finally got our house back and, in so doing, bought back something we already owned. A couple years later, the whole affair turned out great because we sold the house for twice what we did the first time. And lest you feel sorry for the ‘buyers,’ they eventually got their money back.

We were glad a few years later to hear that our sharp lawyer was made a judge. I later saw him at a charity auction I was working and congratulated him. He replied, “Lee, do you know what you call a lawyer with an IQ over 50?”

“Your honor.”