The Human Lawyer: Landis Wade

The Human Lawyer: Landis Wade

Landis Wade spent a career trying to prove and disprove facts in a courtroom or a boardroom. For thirty-five years, he did it, and did it well, whether to a jury of his peers or judges around the country. But perhaps his greatest “trial victory” is proving the accurateness of this statement: "a legal education prepares you to think, which equips you to do anything.”

Because you likely remember your earnest encouragers, who espoused the virtues of your decision to attend law school. Armed with that memory, you likely recall the existential doubt you had in your legal career struggling with wondering whether your encouragers sold you a bill of goods. In that context, Landis’ story is the air filling your professional respiratory system with hope for what lies ahead. Read Landis’ story, in his words.

Here You Are: How’d You Get Here?

Did you hear the story about the 35-year trial lawyer who walked into a podcast studio and became inspired to quit his job as a partner at a large law firm? It sounds like a joke and I am the punchline, and perhaps you are the one happily laughing at my decision to become the full-time host of a literary podcast. But truth be told, this decision would not have been possible without the support I received along the way, starting as early as high school.

I’m confident that without people encouraging me and saying nice things about my work ethic and “potential,” I wouldn’t have gotten into Davidson College or Wake Forest Law School (neither my SATs or LSATs were stellar); wouldn’t have played college football (I was a bit short and light); and wouldn’t have made partner at a reputable Charlotte law firm (I was always a bit rebellious and stubborn, too). Sure, I worked hard, but had it not been for people looking out for and mentoring me, I wouldn’t have made the grades, made the team, or made it 35 years in the law firm. And without the encouragement of my wife, Janet, I wouldn’t have made it through the tough times of practicing law and been able to walk into that podcast studio when the time seemed right to try something new.

What or Who Inspires You?

My greatest inspiration is my father, Ham Wade, who died in December 2018. He was a gentleman lawyer from the “old school” of lawyers and former President of the Mecklenburg County Bar who always encouraged me. In my remarks at his memorial service, I spoke of his work ethic and three beliefs that guided his life: (i) optimism, (ii) charity, and (iii) committed relationships with his family, friends, and God. He loved the law so much that when he was age 86, I joked that he better hurry up and retire if he didn’t want his son to retire before him. I was never the gentleman that he was and not always as optimistic, but I tried to make him proud and that alone made me a better lawyer and person than I otherwise would have been without his example. I dedicated the second season of Charlotte Readers Podcast to him by reading the remarks I gave at his memorial service; remarks that describe him as the kind of man who was more interested in how others were doing, even as his final days approached. He continues to inspire me every day.

What Fulfills You?

Although I miss my law firm colleagues day-to-day, I enjoy the freedom of creative projects that interest me while staying engaged in the legal world as a part-time mediator and AAA arbitrator (I am on the AAA commercial and employment panels). On the creative front, I produce, manage, and host Charlotte Readers Podcast—a podcast where local authors “give voice to their written words.” The podcast allows me to learn new skills, read interesting books, and interview authors about their work. People can listen and find out more about the podcast at this link.

I also enjoy the creative escape of writing, but please: “not like a lawyer.” My path to writing fiction, essays, and short stories started five years ago when I wrote a Christmas story for my family. That story became the first book in a trilogy about lawyers who save Christmas, which a certain reviewer characterized as a cross between My Cousin Vinny and Miracle on 34th Street. It led to the third book—The Christmas Redemption—which won the Holiday category of the 12th Annual National Indie Excellence Awards. With that humbling experience and a few essays and short stories selected for honors and publication, I wanted to figure out a way to hang out more with authors, and since I didn’t want to just write all the time, the podcast idea was born. More information about my writing can be found here.

How Do You Want to Be Remembered?

In my teens, twenties, and thirties (possibly forties?), I could be volatile, hard-headed, selfish, insular, and judgmental. In my late forties and early fifties, I made a conscious decision to try to do better. Like the protagonist the reader loves to hate in the beginning to middle of a novel, I hope to finish the story with a positive arc, where people might say: “Wow, Landis sure did change for the better.”   

As a lawyer, I hope to be remembered as an honest hard-worker who did good work for his clients and the bar. As a writer and podcaster, I hope to be remembered as someone who could tell and help tell a good story.

One Thing You Would Change About the Practice of Law . . .

If I were King of the practice of law, I’d bring back the communal lunch. The time clock has caused many lawyers to close their doors at the noon hour and work with a sandwich or bowl of something in their hands. Twenty-five years ago, big firms weren’t so big and the noon lunch was a way to stay connected with colleagues. Now, to meet billable hour goals, lawyers choose between lunch with their colleagues or dinner with their family. It’s an apparent binary choice, and it’s too bad, because as a young lawyer, I learned much about the practice of law and how to get engaged in the community when I ate out with more experienced lawyers. Just as significant, I had a chance to laugh a little with lawyers my age when we grabbed a bite together. In recent years, the lunch at the desk has made the practice of law lonelier and more isolating. I suppose someone will have to develop an App to figure out how to bring back the communal lunch.

Your Most Unique (Potentially Unknown) Personal Fact . . .

I don’t know how unique this fact is, but at age 50, I gave up caffeine (with one exception). I never liked coffee, so that was easy, but a daily ritual that included a few caffeinated Cokes in the morning, a few caffeinated sweet teas for lunch, and a mid-afternoon Mountain Dew or two sent me to new places—most notably, the emergency room when the sinking spell that felt like a heart attack turned out to be caffeine-induced hyperventilation. I could have cut back but I said “what the hell” and cut it all out but one. It turns out that chocolate has traces of caffeine in it, so it didn’t get cut from the list. That was a no-brainer.  

To connect with Landis, you can find him here, here, or here.

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