A friend of mine, knowing of my interest in things relating to legal ethics and the legal profession, gave me a copy of New England Super Lawyers & Rising Stars 208. The cover caught my eye because of the reference to Hockey Hall-of-Famer, Joe Cavanaugh. In the Spring of 1971 I played my last collegiate athletic contest, a tennis match at Harvard against Harvard. I remember two things. I lost my singles match and I liked the guy who beat me. No one likes to lose. I surely didn’t. I don’t remember most of the guys I beat or most of the guys I lost to. But I remember Joe Cavanaugh. Tennis wasn’t even his best sport. Hockey was. But he was one of those guys you can’t help but respect. Tough as nails. As a tennis player he did not have the very best talent. He had something better: he’d never quit and he’d never beat himself and he’d play fair, respecting the game and his opponent. In short, Joe played tennis like an Australian, which is the highest compliment I can pay a tennis player.
After reading about Joe’s outstanding career as a trial lawyer in Providence, I looked for other names I knew. In sections entitled the LIST (2008 Super Lawyers listing, arranged alphabetically – see pages 24 – 33 and pages 73-74) the small, bold, block typeface and long list of names each followed by a locating number looked for all the world like a cemetary directory. Scanning down one list and up the next and then down and then up looking for a familiar name, one begins to hope that one won’t see a friend’s name. Maybe there was a big misunderstanding. Maybe one’s friend is not dead after-all.
The other thought that forces its way to the front as one trudges and squints one’s way up and down the alphabetical listings is that there are a lot of super lawyers. Super is a word that worked well for Superman and for Superwoman. But the star quality implied by “super” begins to fade and continues to fade as it is applied more and more frequently. For example, super as used in connection with balls (Superballs) has a different meaning from super as used in Superman or Superwoman. No one would be particularly interested in a magazine listing New England’s Superballs & Rising Balls. Of course there is an obvious difference (and in many cases two similarities) between superballs and Super Lawyers. Still, as impressive as the Super Lawyer designation may be it loses much of its luster when forced to compete with the impression made by a list of names and locations of the kind one would find in a cemetary directory.