Eulogy for Will Simmons, Esquire

[ I wrote this a few weeks after receiving word that Will Simmons, one of Annapolis' best attorneys, had virtually closed his practice. I knew that Will had had colon cancer, and that it was not responding well to treatment. I delivered it to his office on February 12th, only to learn later from one of his associates that Will had died on February 9th. Will was only 53 years old. Sic transit gloria mundi. ]

February 12th , 2010

Dear Will;

Susan and I were talking about you, wondering how things were going, not long before we got your letter. We understand your cutting back on your practice, and we’re crossing our fingers for you.

As you know, I graduated from Georgetown Law in 1972 and joined the DC Bar in 1973. That’s over a generation ago, and of course I knew lawyers before I went to law school. I worked elbow-to-elbow with many during a thirty year career in the Federal government.

In the few years we’ve known each other, you have become my exemplar of the lawyer for three very simple reasons. First and foremost, because of your unflinching and unquestioned probity. I cannot remember a single instance of your bending, shading, or evading the truth in the slightest, or proposing anything but the ethically correct thing to do. I could ask no better model for every law student and lawyer in America.

Second, because of your consummate skill as a lawyer. As you recall, you took virtually the same fact pattern into two cases about subdivision restrictions. The cases were heard in the same county, much less the same state. And in the second case, you found yourself arguing against the precedent you’d set in the first case! And yet you won! As your colleague said, you earned SIX Mogen Davids with that one.

Third, and perhaps most memorably for me, are your efforts at resolving controversies – clearly as important to you as winning cases. I will never forget the day that you insisted that I shake hands with Bob Foster, one of our adversaries in the disputes over the easements etc. here on Old County Road. And even though Bob had earlier attempted to run me down, or at least brush me off, with his vehicle, and you knew that, you were emphatic that resolution was possible, and that neighbors should learn to live with each other, and that I must shake his hand. Only a very few lawyers look beyond the ‘case or controversy’ at hand, and fewer yet look to resolve the underlying issues. That brings you at least within the penumbra of being a “philosopher-king.”

You will be pleased to know that a degree of neighborliness has returned to Old County Road. Most of us are nodding, if not speaking just yet. And a few days ago while I was digging my truck out from under our first big snowfall of 2010, Mark Aiello came up the hill running his snow blower and volunteered to help keep the snow from blocking me in. And I said, “Thank you, Sir!”

There is hope for us all.

And I thank you, Sir!

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