Hamilton Herald Masthead


Front Page - Friday, January 23, 2015


View From The Cheap Seats

William O. "Bill" James, Jr.

It was just 50 years ago this week that I was born in Great Falls, Mont. I was born early in the morning hours in the middle of a blizzard. My recollection of the event is vague and can mostly be attributed to stories I’ve heard over the years. This has been a tough birthday for me. It’s a birthday I’ve felt for at least two years, which is to say I’ve thought of myself as one half century old for that long. I have many friends who I went to high school with that have already hit this milestone and seem to be dealing with it much better than I.

The thing that’s the hardest for me is that everyone is so young. Nowadays, many of my clients weren’t even born when I entered law school, and many of the judges I appear in front of are younger than me. Everyone looks younger, and I often feel like I’ve allowed the time to slip by without fulfilling all I was meant to do here on Earth. I guess it’s possible I could live another 50 years, but let’s face it – that’s not going to happen.

That being said, I don’t have a lot of regrets so far. I’m pretty happy that I’ve done as well as I have, and it’s hard to imagine anything I’d change. Like characters from many movies and books, a serious reflection of my life leads me to the frank conclusion that, while things could be better, imagining alternate routes for my life to this point would only cheapen what I have and what I’ve done.

If I have a regret, it would be my failure to take my college years seriously until it was almost too late. The four extra years I spent in undergrad have haunted me almost daily for the last 24 years. I often feel like I could have done so much more if I had those years back.

But, like I said above, that regretted detour of four years in Fayetteville did teach me many important lessons about life that have actually helped me become a better lawyer, and maybe even a better person Also, I’ve imparted those lessons to many young people, including my own children. For instance, who would have thought my oldest son would have been on track to graduate from college on time with a finance degree with a grade point in the neighborhood of 3.5? That means my namesake is graduating in half the time with almost twice the grade point average. That also means I must have done something right.

Of course, without my lagging in college, I wouldn’t have met Patti, and she wouldn’t have had the opportunity to take on a project no one else really wanted or saw value in at the time and turn it into an almost respectable human being. If I hadn’t “waited” for her to find me, who knows where I’d be today? Regretting those four years is regretting Patti and three wonderful children. That, I cannot and will not do.

As far as the feeling that I haven’t done as much as I wanted in 50 years, that’s my own fault. The thing about life is that we often live and plan our lives like we have all the time in the world. I’ve had 50 great years. How many I have left only powers bigger than me know. I do, however, plan to live the time I do have left to the fullest and will try make the world around me a better place. That’s the best I can do. That’s true for everybody, especially those of us way up in the CHEAP SEATS!

Bill James is a criminal defense lawyer and co-founder of the James Law Firm with locations in Little Rock, Conway, and Fayetteville, Ark. He loves the combination of peanut butter and chocolate, and once won a pie eating contest. He may be contacted at Bill@JamesFirm.com.