Tuesday, November 10, 2009

My Lawyer, the Drug Dealer


Berryville, Mo. lawyer Cindy Baker made a, um, slight error in judgment when she sold crystal-meth to a "client" who happened to be a snitch.   As you can see from the pics, things weren't going all that well for attorney Baker as it was.  Things are going less well for her now although she was released on bond to enter rehab.

How often do you think it happens that your sharp, smart, professional lawyer finds themselves making more dough from the illegal drug business than they do from practicing law.  My guess it's less rare than you might imagine.  As a lawyer throughout the 1980s and the 1990s I worked with many drug addicted and abusing lawyers who if they survived the era--are still nursing the aftereffects of perforated septums and other physical and mental ailments attributable to drug use and abuse.   I shared an office with a bright, skilled, committed lawyer, Nancy O., long dead,  who rad a cocaine distributorship.  You would not have guessed it from knowing her casually or professionally.  Although as Nancy O. entered her thirties it seemed to those of us who knew her "issues" that she had developed a pretty striking case of pancreatitis.

One afternoon in the early years of my friendship with her, Nancy and I were going to go out after work for a drink; but, there were "errands"to run.  To my astonishment, we went from one building lobby to the next as she collected envelopes and delivered envelopes. At her apartment, later, I saw a desk in the dining room specially equipped with a scale and what I learned was the paraphernalia of her primary earning activity. As much as I loved Nancy, our friendship did not survive my decision to "get sober," and my expressed hope that she could give it a shot--ended our friendly relations.

For me Nancy O. represented the could-have-been.  She was a natural advocate, with a solid sense of what was possible and probable in terms of setting and meeting client expectations.  Clients loved her.  She was the feminist lawyer who taught me that secretaries are not "girls."  Nancy cared about progressive causes, and right and wrong--except where narcotics were concerned.  Her drug use, her alcoholism, and the impairment of her judgment meant that her career was limited to doing pretty bottom shelf work--with her advocacy skill set her professional potential was so much more.

There were so many more and worse lost to drugs and alcohol.  I've talked, here, about my dear friend Carter who died of a heroin overdose.  In one of the offices there was this tremendously "successful" personal injury lawyer who would lose days to sitting around his office coked out with his glassy-eyed buddies from the ghetto.  When you think about the investment in time, preparation, tuition, the bar exam, the learning curve to lose it over being high....it's ghastly.

Look at the face of Cindy Baker.

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