Despite our occasional curmudgeonly moments, we are generally happy people here at Above the Law, and we love happy stories. Our pages are full of feel-good tales (even if negativity bias causes readers to remember the sad or angry stories more than the happy ones).
Just in the past few months, for example, we’ve written about a law student who rescued an elderly woman from an oncoming train, a prosecutor who came to the aid of hate-crime victims, a law clerk who won a beauty contest, lawyers who have left the law to find success in other fields…. we could go on.
One of my favorite happy stories from our archives involved a partner at Haynes and Boone, Matthew Deffebach, who donated a kidney to the son of a HayBoo staffer. That’s even more noble than giving someone the shirt off your back.
Today’s story might not measure up to that high standard, but it’s another great example of a partner with compassion….
But many partners — perhaps most, I’d say — are anything but bleepholes. They are just like us, except they happen to love, and excel at, the practice of law.
Earlier this week, Svend Deal, an associate in the Charlotte office of Cozen O’Connor, lost his father. After hearing the sad news, David Higgins, the managing partner for the office, sent out this firm-wide email:
From: David T. Higgins Jr.
To: FRM ~ All ~ Attorneys
Cc: CLT ~ All ~ Personnel
Sent: Mon, Dec 10, 2012 16:57:28 GMT+00:00
Subject: The Greatest Generation
Born at the cusp of the Great Depression, he grew up on the lands of his Catawba Indian ancestors – his family scraping by on 50 cents a day. Like so many in that time, he enlisted in the army immediately after the last bell rang at his North Carolina high school and – sooner than perhaps his mother would have liked – he was bundled up and shipped off to France. There, the boy became a man, and he came through the Battle of the Bulge with a shiny, Bronze star pinned to his chest. When he returned home, he enrolled at UNC where he graduated Phi Beta Kappa in 2 ½ years.
20,000 feet above ground he bumped into a pretty flight attendant, causing her to drop hot coffee into his lap. She eventually married her passenger and then, one after another after another, five boys came to expand their family. He taught his five boys as he had been taught — to grab life by the throat. For that was exactly how he lived: He snow skied until he was 81. Water skied until 86. He built his own lake house by hand, assisted by his five little sons, who ran around the then secluded Lake Norman shoreline fetching nails and screws. The little house still stands, there on the banks of Lake Norman, sandwiched between the grand houses that now dot the lake. A testament, perhaps, to a better time.
Henry Perry Deal passed away this morning at the age of ninety. True to form, he did so on his own terms — at a time and place of his choosing. He passed as he deserved and had earned: peacefully and comfortably.
When you have a moment, please extend your condolences to Henry’s son, Svend Deal, who lost his father and hero this morning.
T. David Higgins, Jr. | Cozen O’Connor
Managing Partner, Charlotte
And David Higgins sounds like a remarkable man as well. He wrote this eloquent and heartfelt email based on having met Henry Deal on a few occasions and based on conversations with Svend Deal about his father. It’s nice to see a managing partner who cares so much about the lawyers and staff who work for him, to the point of getting to know their families.
Yes, there are horror stories out there about law firm partners responding in less-than-compassionate fashion when colleagues suffer losses. But there are also lots of stories — like this one, and we welcome others — in which partners support associates and staff during difficult times.
Biglaw is known for big paychecks and big prestige, but it’s also home to people with big hearts.