THE STUFF WE LEAVE BEHIND.
Mastantuono Law Office is moving to a new space this week, a nice suite of offices in Milwaukee's Third Ward, and changing its name, to Mastantuono & Coffee, as Rebecca Coffee's partner status is officially recognized. As I think about leaving the lower east side space where I've spent the last 14 years of my practice, I find my reflections pondering not objects in space, but moments in time, client and colleague encounters that occurred in this place and stand fixed in my memories like ghosts that will remain here long after we leave.
The most interesting part of what trial lawyers do often involves not the public encounters and contested courtroom battles, but the private discussions, the confessions and expressions of clients, the sometimes desperate acceptance of advice and counsel given to people in crisis. I've never been one to size up my work as simply a job – with myself and the fine lawyers I work with, it's personal. I've listened to thousands of stories here of mistakes and wrongdoing, of struggles with addiction and mental illness, of every variation of human drama. I've sat in this office and peppered clients with questions while I played prosecutor, preparing them to testify at trials, often with their lives as they know them hanging in the balance. I've sat with parents who bring their children in, seeking help for their problems.
I've vetted cases with my colleagues, searching for the right strategy, the motion, the case, the way to win, to get done what we need to get done for a client. I've been here at every hour of the day, into the night and through to the morning. I've argued here, celebrated here, cursed and complained here, and thought hard here, more than at any other place in my life.
These are the moments and people that will always remain here in my mind.
Just like a career is not a title but what we do, a place is not an address, but what goes on inside it. The best architects and designers know this, creating spaces and buildings that facilitate the human activity that occurs there.
As I think about this space and the next, I think about the how best to occupy a place where myself and my colleagues can manage and counsel crisis, engage in the chess match of litigation, connect with each other and clients, and go off to the courts ready to fight and advocate for those we represent.
Lower East Side or Third Ward, it's the stuff within that counts.