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If Williston Could Wobble Back, Maybe There’s Hope for All of Us

by Carolyn Elefant on December 26, 2005 · 3 comments

in Encouragement, Features

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Someone on the Solosez listserve posted a link to this article from the Harvard  magazine on Samuel Williston, 20th century legal scholar, Harvard law professor and author of an authoratative contracts treatise.   But though Williston worked late into his life, he suffered a nervous breakdown in his mid thirties that almost derailed his career.  The article describes how Williston worked his way back and more poignantly, how he paid it forward, encouraging others through similarly dark times.  From the article:

Nonetheless, [Williston] understood that his breakdown had been a central event
in his life and hoped his recovery might show those with similar
problems that “some achievement may still be possible after years of
incapacity.” His sense of having overcome a potentially career-ending
illness probably contributed to the serenity and compassion that people
so often remarked on. “Having had much trouble himself,” one faculty
friend wrote in 1951, “he is quick to share and lighten the trouble of
others. More than one colleague in a tough time has received an early
visit from him and benefited from his encouragement and understanding.”
Williston himself liked to tell people that his own career had been
like the path of a wobbling planet: he was proof that, however far off
course one went, one could “wobble back.”

Maybe your practice has hit a rough patch recently or you’re suffering from malaise or serious depression.  We can never avoid the bumps in the road, all we can do, like Williston (or Weebles) is keep on wobbling back.

  • Steve

    Thanks for the post (and your blog), just the kind of encouragement I need today as the new year approaches

  • Peter S. Chamberlain

    Thank You! I had no idea Williston had this history. I will be citing this in my upcoming application for reinstatement from a suspension for actual or alleged mental disability, based solely on clinical depression (no disciplinary violations alleged & none ever sustained) which I was prevented from defending myself against at the time.
    I know several attorneys and judges who have gone through such experiences, in diverse privileged & confidential relationships. Like the rest of the attorneys I know,they run the gamut professionally from the excellent to the good, mediocre, weak, to the downright dangerous.
    Under Applicants v. Texas St. Bd. of Law Examiners, SS-740-93 (WD TX 19994) on WL & Lexis-Nexis, it appears that if you have ever either had, or been diagnosed as having, or treated for, certain conditions, including clinical depression “with [alleged but never identified nor supported by one word of evidence even being offered, nor was any finding ever made], even ten years with no problems does not even constitute evidence in support of reinstatement. The opinion also suggests, contrary to the text of TEX. DISC. R. PROC. 12.06 and state court case law, that one in my position can also be required to prove that he will not become disabled in the future. My case also involves multiple conflicts of interest on the record, and both psychiatric testimony we can now prove not only medically but factually false, and palpably false, deceptive, & defamatory testimony against me, including testimony to a psychiatric condition none of the several psychiatrists involved, or who I had consulted over 30 years, has ever diagnosed, by my own counsel of record, in my absence, etc. Does anyone have any ideas, or would anyone like to get into, this very interesting ADA & Daubert issue, pro bono?
    Having left an insurance-defense firm and gone solo–something I had never expected to do–in 1967, I have found your blog very interesting.
    PETER S. CHAMBERLAIN
    1309 Hunt Street
    Commerce, Texas 75428-2916
    peterschamberlain@earthlink.net
    (903) 886-2323
    Cell: (903) 366-6926 (Unlisted)

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