I learned about the 40 minute hour as soon as I began practicing law. In 1974 Alaska was booming with the construction of the Trans-Alaska pipeline, and the law firms were hiring, but I wasn’t able to get work with anyone.
So I began my legal career as a public defender in the United States District Court for the State of Alaska. I billed for my services at the set rate of $20 an hour. I was new to the law, but I realized you weren’t really supposed to work that cheaply as a lawyer. The rate was kept artificially low to minimize the cost in the Federal Court System budget. So I began with my 40 minute hours, and was actually making $30 an hour, which I could live on. I didn’t have an office or a secretary, so I had no overhead at all.
The thing about lawyers, is that if I had really billed at the $20 per hour — which was what was the legal rate — they would have thought there was something wrong with me. Maybe I was someone that really couldn’t be trusted.
After a few months of this, one the Assistant United States Attorneys who prosecuted these cases asked me if I wanted to be his law partner. I said my name would have to go first, and he agreed, and resigned the U. S. Attorney’s Office and became my law partner. He had all kinds of connections and clients, and we did well. I practiced that miserable profession for about five years, and got out as quick as I could.
I bought a bar and got into politics. The bar was Swiftwater Bill’s Dance Hall and Saloon, and it was a much more honorable way to earn a living. And you didn’t have to put up the prattling of all those lawyers.
I have resolved my problems with the Alaska Bar Association, and will escape disbarment. I still have a little unfinished business up there, and a law license can be a handy thing to have.
When people ask me what I did for a living, I have to tell them that I was a politician or a lawyer. People can’t stand either one of them, and I say I was a lawyer. Lawyers are like wannabe politicians. But people really don’t like voting for them.