Thursday, November 10, 2016

7. The Sharks Are Circling...

When Diane and I formed Bickers & Bickers in 1999, we had a website under the name of bickerslaw.com.  When we closed the office and retired, I shut down the website in late 2015 rather than pay the annual fees to keep and maintain the domain name or to pay for a server to host the website.  I never dreamed what would happen next.

Apparently, another company bought the rights to the name "bickerslaw.com" and set up their own website using our old name early in 2016.  Their server is in Canada, but the company is an attorney referral service in Texas.  Why would a Texas company hijack our old website?  Obviously to sweep up any potential clients who might come looking for us.  Of course, they are wasting their money, as almost all of our legal practice was concentrated in the Western Pennsylvania area and it is highly unlikely that anyone who might be looking for us for legal services would need or want a Texas attorney. While there appears to be at least one attorney in Texas named Bickers, he won't benefit unless he is affiliated with this referral company.  Still, I find it all a little irksome. 

If that wasn't bad enough, someone put up a false Facebook page a few years ago called Bickers & Bickers, Divorce Attorneys at Law, which was supposedly located in Iowa.  The page lists our old phone number, our old website and our current e-mail address.  Try as I might, I cannot get Facebook to take the page down.  The next best thing was to post a review on it pointing out that this was a fake Facebook page and that it should be ignored.  I do have a real Bickers & Bickers Facebook page that refers to the closing of our office.  UPDATE: I was finally granted access to the fake Facebook page on November 10, 2016 and was able to delete it.

Exercise caution. The Internet is not a safe swimming pool, but a vast ocean.  And there are sharks out there. 

Saturday, July 30, 2016

6. Moving On

The closing of our law practice has been an interesting experience to say the least. Some of our clients did not like it at all.  They did not like having to find another attorney and some were even angry with us.  Most, however, were very supportive and wished us well as we moved on to a new chapter in our life.  Many people noticed our empty office and blank sign but even more noticed a new company taking our place where our firm had been all these years.

The question I am asked more often than any other these days is, "How do you like retirement?"  The short answer is that I like it a lot.  But for a long time I hesitated giving a straight answer simply because I wasn't sure what retirement was really like.  It has taken nearly a full year to complete all of our ongoing legal cases, to shut down the office, sell the furniture, end our insurance coverage, close the bank accounts, and to finally notify the proper legal authorities of our firm's closure.  Closing a legal practice was more complicated and lengthy than I expected.  Add to that the fact that we were very busy helping two of our children complete college, move out of their apartments and find jobs, begin renovations of our own house, create a website for my local art group and prepare and put on exhibit a major art show, all within the last year, you can see we have been very busy.

The pace of our life has started to slow just a little; our first grandchild was born recently and we were able to visit with him on short notice.  Freedom to travel when and where we want has been nice.  My blood pressure has dropped and our health improved --that was somewhat unexpected.  Other changes are a bit curious, such as the change of wardrobe that occurs with such a lifestyle change.  Most of all, I find that each day is its own reward and living in the present occupies my time. I hope that continues for a very long time.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

5. A New Beginning

The pictures and diplomas are off the walls and packed away, the desks emptied, our name scraped off the front door glass, the lights are turned off, and this silent and empty place is locked and secured as I turn the key one last time.  Our famous outdoor sign, now a blank green panel, stares back at all the passersby who steadily stream past our threshold.  At the end of the day, in a torrent rain as lightning split the sky in half, Diane and I dashed to the car and left our old office behind in appropriately dramatic fashion.  To boost our soggy spirits, we feast on pizza; surely the finest food for the soul.

Tomorrow, July 1st, marks a new beginning for Diane and me.  Most who know me are aware that throughout my legal career I have had a second occupation as an artist and photographer. Of course, my law practice took precedence and opportunities to practice my avocation were severely limited, particularly in the last few years.  All of that changes now as I take on the mantle of “full-time artist”.  Diane is anxious to assist me and for that I am truly grateful.  I have a gut feeling that all of this will take some adjustment... but I am excited and can’t wait to get started.  On the other hand, a few days off is sounding pretty good right now.

I’ll report back here on our transition at the end of the year, if not before.  Meanwhile, anybody can follow my progress on my website, Fine Art by Bob Bickers (http://bobbickers.net) and on my Art Blog (http://fineartbybobbickers.blogspot.com).

Saturday, June 27, 2015

4. Time Travel

The memories have been strong this past week.  They span the nineteen years Diane and I have been in this building, stretch across our entire legal careers and even back to a time when my father was a young man.  Going through my old books, I sometimes would find faded writings or a long forgotten business card.  Some of my books had been my father’s when he was studying law, and out would fall some note he had written, a passing thought, unimportant really, but unknown and unseen for six decades, and now a treasured relic.  These tiny slices of time would emerge from their sojourn across the years, and, for just a moment, I would stand in my father's shoes, sharing his thoughts and that brief moment in time.

A few of my father’s belongings have accompanied me through part of my career. One is a framed image of Abraham Lincoln that was given to him by the Bar Association upon passing the Tennessee Bar in 1961.  It includes a quote attributed to Lincoln: “A lawyer’s time and advice are his stock in trade.”  This picture was always prominently displayed in my father’s office and is associated with my earliest memories of visiting him in his office. Although we learned a few years ago that this quote cannot actually be proven to have been made by Abraham Lincoln, it certainly sounds like something Lincoln could have said, so we proudly had it on display in our office too.

Closing these doors is becoming more difficult than I thought it would be. But while there is much to remember, there is even more to look forward to.  When I am asked “When was the best time of your life?” I usually reply, “Right now!”  I have felt that way a long time now.  I try to keep the best memories of the past, live my life in the present, and always look forward to the future -- it has so much potential, even as we all time travel together, one day at a time.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

3. What’s In a Name?

I have always been proud of my name.  There’s a sizable population of Bickers living in England, particularly in the counties of Yorkshire and Suffolk on the East coast.  From there, our family has spread primarily to the United States and Australia.  In fact, virtually every single person in the U.S. with the Bickers name can trace their ancestry to a Robert Bickers who first appeared in Virginia records in 1728.

Our ten-foot sign outside our office.  Hard to miss.
In the 287 years since then, various members of my extended family became attorneys, but to my knowledge, none of them formed partnerships with other family members and called themselves Bickers & Bickers until my father and I did so in 1984 and my wife and I did so in 1999.  While practicing in Memphis, no one ever really drew attention to our name.  The closest thing to that might have been my father’s campaign slogan when he was running for a seat on the (dysfunctional) City Council in 1968: “Bickering –NO!  Bickers –YES!” 

Appearing on The Tonight Show, November, 2010.
But in 1999, things were different in Murrysville.  For one, we were allowed to advertise and put a large sign outside our office, so we put up a lighted sign that could not be missed.  It became a landmark in our community for the next 16 years.  Diane and I were also in practice long enough for our ads and word of mouth to get our name around.  Being a husband and wife firm added appeal to our situation (although we never did handle divorces or family law).  Then there was the Internet which also provided an outlet to advertise our services.  Our website also allowed us to be known to people all over the world.

It didn’t take long for word about the law firm with the funny name to get out.  Our sign appeared on various websites about humorous signs or professionals with funny names. Using photos of our sign or images of our webpage, Bickers & Bickers showed up on the Late Show with David Letterman, the Tonight Show with Jay Leno, and on the Ellen Degeneres Show.  Local newspapers wrote clever articles about the married couple who loved to argue –court cases!  Others wrote on how our name was well fitted to our profession.

Diane had a solo practice before I joined her in 1999.
In one example of how our name has popped up in unusual places, I found a website where someone had gone to a model railroad convention in Nashville, Tennessee, and on the side of one of the miniature buildings of a tiny town someone built for their train, was an exact copy of our sign!  I suppose the hobbyist thought that if you are going to have a law office in your model town, it might as well be a memorable one!  I couldn’t agree more. 

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

2. The First Bickers & Bickers

1986 Memphis and Shelby County Bar Association Directory.
As we start the process of closing our law firm, my thoughts take me to the the brief time 30 years ago when my father and I formed the first Bickers & Bickers in Memphis, Tennessee.  I was fresh out of law school in 1983 but had worked for many years as an insurance adjuster while taking classes at night.  My father had been an attorney working as a solo practitioner since the mid-1960's.  In 1984 we decided to work together and shared an office on the 7th floor of the old Dermon Building in downtown Memphis.  My mother, as she had for my father, served as our legal secretary.

I enjoyed that period of time as I learned a great deal of practical information about being a lawyer that is not taught in law school.  My father also appreciated learning from me and being brought up-to-date on the law.  We developed a mutual respect and relied on each others' strengths.  Being an attorney seemed a little less scary and I looked forward to coming into the office each day.

Unfortunately, none of this would last.  There were severe restrictions on lawyer advertising back then and it was extremely difficult to bring in new clients.  Late in 1985 I moved on to other jobs in the legal field, but my father continued to practice law on his own until he passed away in 1998. The following year I joined my wife's thriving law practice in Murrysville and the second Bickers & Bickers was born.

My partnership with my father only lasted a tenth as long as the partnership with my wife, but the memory of that time was no less enduring.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

1. The End of an Era in Murrysville.

Dear Friends,

After 32 years each of practicing law and more than two decades of service to Murrysville and the Southwestern Pennsylvania area, Diane and I will be closing the law office of Bickers & Bickers on June 30, 2015.  We are no longer accepting new cases and hope to finish our current caseload by the end of the year.

It has been an honor to work with our peers and other professionals of this region, and having the opportunity to provide quality, affordable legal representation to the people of our community has been both a privilege and a pleasure.

We will be engaging in other pursuits, including devoting time to my other endeavor, Fine Art by Bob Bickers. More information about that can be found at my website and my art blog.
  
Thank you once again for allowing us to be of assistance to so many of you these many years.
                                             
Sincerely yours,

Bob and Diane

Robert V. Bickers, Jr., Esquire
Diane Landis Bickers, Esquire