My life is so different now, though I suppose that all of our lives have dramatically changed this year. Weddings, funerals, births, graduations and even small things like going to the grocery store are nothing like they used to be, yet what seemed so surreal just a few short months ago has now become the reluctantly expected. I am so thankful in this new world that I had already planned to retire the first of this year.

I am thankful that I no longer meet with clients and witnesses and dash off to court. Perhaps it is common for retirees to find their thoughts drifting back to working days past. I really don’t know, but I do know that even though my trial lawyer life seems so far away, I think back on it often.

“All rise,” and we all stood. From behind counsel table, my life at the creek seemed distant, even though our farm is only a few miles down the road from the courthouse. I remember how the bailiff’s words would echo across the tall room, and I would watch as the jurors filed into the jury box one final time.

My client would stand beside me, nervously fidgeting, having asked many times over the last few hours what I thought the verdict would be. I always answered with variations on the theme of uncertainty. I had learned that in litigation, as in life, there is no such thing as a crystal ball.

I’ve won cases when I thought I was losing and lost when I knew for certain that I would win. I learned not to take any credit for winning or to despair over the losses.

I remember the feeling of sweat trickling down under my armpits and of being thankful that I was wearing a jacket to hide my underarm wetness. I really hadn’t gotten nervous in many, many years, but once a trial was over, and all I had left to do was stand one last time to hear the verdict read, I would feel a knot tighten in my stomach. My hands would feel weak, and I always knew that it was wise not to try and pick up the paper cup of water on counsel table.

I remember how my client and I would exchange hopeful glances and then look over to watch the jurors file in to stand before their assigned seats. They would walk in a line, each one either looking down or staring intently at the back of the juror just ahead, until perhaps first one juror, and then another, and finally a third, would look over at me with quick glances and brief smiles. I would then know then that this would be a good verdict for my client. I had earned that no eye contact boded poorly.

My life as a trial lawyer was really all about gaining an understanding of my clients’ life lessons, and then learning how to share those lessons with others, the people in the jury box. For 36 years, I had been telling stories, real stories about real people, whose lives really did hang in the balance, to the real people in the jury box, whose job it was to listen, weigh the evidence and determine the balance.

“You may be seated,” and we sat.

“Have you reached a verdict?”

“We have, your honor.” The jury foreman would hand the verdict forms to the bailiff, who carried them over to the judge. All eyes in the courtroom watched as the judge shuffled through the forms and set all but one aside.

The judge now knew the verdict, but remained expressionless. It often occurred to me that most judges would do well playing professional poker.

The judge would hand then that one deciding form, carrying the fate of the parties who sat before the bench, back to the bailiff. “You will now hear your verdict read in open court.”

“We the jury, being duly impaneled and sworn, do hereby find in favor of defendant.”

I then knew that this particular jury, on this day, had decided in our favor, but my client did not quite understand. I would reach over and squeeze a cold, yet sweaty hand. “We won,” I whispered.

“We really won?”

“Yes,” I answered, and we would sit still while the judge thanked the jury for performing their civic duty and then dismiss them.

On the other side of the courtroom, I would often see tears and rage, and I would understand that my colleague was busy. I would nod with a brief smile, as though to say we could talk later, as I packed up my briefcase, to return to the creek.

Greg was always waiting with a warm welcome, and over dinner we would talk about our separate days, but now there is no need. Now we are home and together all the time. We talk over breakfast, lunch and dinner. We work the farm together and run errands together, and I now cannot imagine my life any other way, though I do look forward to the time when this year’s unimaginable changes will likewise become memories of lessons past.

Christine Tailer is an attorney and former city dweller who moved several years ago, with her husband, Greg, to an off-grid farm in south-central Ohio. Visit them on the web at