Sunday, January 22, 2017

Hurray for Women

Those of you who believe that the real victims of discrimination now are white women - well yesterday showed that most of the women of the world, and many of the men of the world, tend to disagree.  There were Women's Marches in every free city, and some not so free cities, in the world. 

How does a movement begin?  It begins when a large group of people are angry and demonstrate their anger. Truth to power!  Anyone who denies white privilege, especially white male privilege, is not living in the real world.  It is easy to blame ones own faults on perceived discrimination, but let's look at the facts:

1.  Women are abused and raped at a much greater rate than men, with the perpetrator almost always a man.  

2.  Men are in charge of almost all significant corporations, countries, government agencies.

3.  Women are paid less than men. 

4.  Women perform most of the least desirable jobs, at much less pay, and especially women of color perform these jobs - cleaning, waiting tables, assisting others.

5.  Women are taught to be "nice" and look "pretty" (which means thin with makeup). Men aren't. 

6.  What do you call a woman that has a lot of sex?  The names are quite different than what men are called, "stud, Lothario, Don Juan, the man."

I could go on and I won't. Yesterday, women and men stood up against sexism.  All of you white men who feel that you have been discriminated against, as a class, race or gender, you are not. That doesn't mean that you didn't get the job/promotion or whatever.  This is bigger than you.  

I hope the worldwide Women's Marches mean we have a movement. While I love men, and some of my best friends are men, and discrimination doesn't apply to most men, the facts are still the facts. Women comprise 52% of the population and have less than 10% of the power.  That needs to change.  Viva la femme!

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Get Health Insurance Without Obamacare

Do you need health insurance and you are scared Obamacare will be repealed. Here is what you should do:

1.  Apply to be a "community" or "visiting" student at a college like the University of Missouri-Kansas City. No need for transcripts, etc.  adjust get permission to take a course for credit. (I have taken the History of Rock and Roll, Physics for Non-Majors, and Women's Studies.) This semester I plan on taking Ancient Classic Literature. 

2.  Enroll in the course. Take the class.  An added benefit is learning new things. A three credit hour class costs about $1000 a semester.  

3.  Sign up for domestic student health insurance. At UMKC it is with Aetna. You can sign up per semester, or on August 15, for a year. The annual cost is approximately $2500. The insurance is great, since most people in the group are 18-22 year olds. $4500 per year (a class for 2 semesters, plus the insurance) averages $375 per month, about half of what comparable insurance costs for me, a 64 year old, under Obamacare, assuming no government subsidy. 

The student health insurance for an older non-smoker ineligible for subsidies, like m, is much better than Obamacare, and cheaper, and not subject to political whimsy.  

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Our Responsibility - Make This World A Better Place

We are living in a time where our country is divided. People vilify those who believe differently. This division is epidemic across the world. Britain wants out of the European Union, fascism is on the rise in places like Hungary, terrorist attacks plague the world.  I have never lived through what my grandparents experienced, with their siblings and nephew perishing in Auschwitz, and I am grateful for that. We don't want to go back to the times of hatred, Hutus killing Tutsis, Sarajevo with snipers in a war zone. But what can we individuals do?

We need to make this world a better place. That sounds like a daunting tasks, but it's not. It does not take much effort to improve our collective lot. Loving one's family members and friends improves their lot, and, in small part, this world. Volunteering at a food pantry improves children's lives. I have a friend who gave me the idea to send books to a prison. One of the books that helped me was Dr. Victor Frankl's "Man's Search For Meaning," which I sent to a prisoner.  The book was passed through the prison and I just discovered it had a real impact on an incarcerated young woman. I was so pleased you would have thought I actually wrote the book, instead of just spending $10 and mailing the book to the prison.

We need kindness and empathy to get through the worldwide malaise. Giving acts are contagious. Giving is loving.  When one gives, it is with no expectations in return. We need to speak up and let our voices be heard. We need to object to bullies and we will make a difference. We need to make this place the kind of world we want for our children.

Kindness and giving takes little effort. Charity and kindness are contagious.  We need These acts now more than ever.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Women - Tired of being bossed around? 7 Rules

Women still struggle - while completing the lion's Share of domestic duties, and being relegated to jobs as "assistant" to a man, working to be the boss but stymied by the boys' club, or penalized for being a mother. Women's exploitation in the work environment is the norm. Just look at  How many female bosses rhere are in large corporations, far fewer than is rational.

Women are better doctors than men, at least according to recent studies. My experience with female doctors is excellent. Women are more likely to care about others. Women are good workers. More women obtain bachelors and graduate degrees than men. Yet, women still earn $.76 on the dollar as compared to men.

So how do women get professional power? I will tell you what has worked for me and my law partner. Women - start your own businesses and, not only will you have no boss, your fate is in your own hands.

Self-employment is not right for everyone. Here is what it takes to be successful and self-employed.

1. WORK WITH PASSION - Know what you want to accomplish - be it selling bird seed, cleaning houses, or practicing law. 

2.   ENVISION SUCCESS - Don't give up.  Consult with other successful business owners. Do not accept defeat. Once knocked down, dust yourself off and keep going. 

3.  BELIEVE IN YOURSELF - Self confidence is the key. Faking self-confidence Helps, and, strangely, authentic self-confidence oftentimes follows. 

4.  WORK HARDER THAN YOU BELIEVE YOU CAN WORK. Work, Work, Work.  Research, and work, work, work. 

5.  TREAT OTHERS WITH RESPECT (do this even if you don't want to run a business).

6.  TAKE CALCULATED RISKS - If you don't get outside your comfort zone, you will not succeed. 

7.  DO NOT GIVE UP - just like Winston Churchill said. 

Self-employment is not for everyone. You must want to work hard and loathe being at the whim of others, who are oftentimes less competent than you.  And you must hate being subservient to others. 

Whether you become the next Warren Buffett (or Oprah Winfrey) with your own blood, sweat, and tears, women need to be risk takers. For many of us, there can be no greater professional satisfaction than building your dream job and seeing it through. And no one bosses you around.  Building a business is like giving birth to a child, which is uniquely a female act.  You can do it.

Monday, January 2, 2017

IMPLICIT BIAS - IAT: What is it?

Very few people want to be called a racist or a sexist or an ageist. Whenwe hear those insulting terms, we bristle, and for good reason. We all like to think of ourselves as fair people. Most of us are not explicitly biased or, as we call it, racist, sexist, etc. However, it's human nature to have biases, based on our own experiences, teachings, and familiarity with those like and unlike us. Having an implicit bias, a leaning for or against certain groups or characteristics, is normal. If we can identify those biases, we can work on addressing, if not eliminating them.

At the suggestion of an attorney I know, I have taken four of the implicit bias tests developed by researchers as Harvard. IAT tests. And yes, I, am biased. There are several tests. When you take one on a computer, your views are determined in part by the rapidity of responses and, of course, the content of responses.

I took four tests, to determine if I am biased regarding race, age, gender professions an the Muslim religion.  Generally, people are biased toward groups in which they belong. Regarding race, surprisingly, I am slightly biased toward African-Americans, and not Caucasians like me.  Regarding age, I apparently have no bias toward young or old. Likewise, I have no bias regarding gender professions, probably because I am a lawyer. The test that is more troubling to me was the implicit bias test regarding Muslims. I am slightly biased against Muslims. That is valuable information for me, so that I can work on consciously overcoming this bias. I could spend a long time hypothesizing why my results were the way they were. However, I would rather understand that I have biases, on which I can work.

I suggest those of you reading this take the IAT.  "What do you have to lose?"

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Being an Honorable Person - 6 East Rules (Reprint from October 27, 2009)

Being an Honorable Person - 6 Easy Rules

I wrote this post back in 2009.  We are on the last day of 2016, and I hope I can live by these guidelines in the coming year:

I am going to take a little departure from talking about cases.  I have and have had many courageous clients.  It's the nature of my business that someone who wants to bring a discrimination case must have a modicum of courage.  These are not the types of cases for the faint of heart.  Today, though, I have been thinking about honor.  It is the courageous, honorable clients whom are the ones I love.

What is it that makes a person honorable?  An honorable person is one who is deserving of respect.  And who deserves respect?  Most of us, including me, have acted in dishonorable ways.  Dishonorable acts include lying, cheating, stealing, betraying, manipulating.  It's easy to be negative.  What does it take to be a truly honorable person, worthy of the respect of others:

1.   Speaking the truth even when it is unpopular, while avoiding needless unkind words;
2.   Being loyal even when it is tempting to be disloyal;
3.   Having empathy, especially with one's opponents and people with whom one has little in common;
4.   Giving with no expectation of receiving anything in return except the joy of giving:
5.   Standing up for what one believes in even when it is unpopular to do so;
6.   Truly being able to forgive others for just about anything.

I know this is a simple list, but it seems fairly comprehensive to me.  When someone needlessly hurts someone else or strives for personal power or personal wealth above all else, it is always a reflection of some underlying conflict in that person.  Unfortunately, people who are hurt by others oftentimes go out and hurt even more people.  Angry people hurt others, while oftentimes not meaning to do so.

So, how does this relate to the practice of law?  The practice of law is a microcosm of the act of living.  We have developed a set of rules with which to operate so that we don't destroy each other.  Law is eminently logical and practical.  People aren't.  It is possible to fiercely promote what one believes in or to defend one's person and principles without annihilating the opponent.  The fiercest advocate can be the gentlest person.  It is not easy to be honorable, but honorable people do not expect perfection.  They are ready to forgive transgressions. Living honorably is the key to being peaceful and content. Not ironically, the best advocate is the one that acts with honor.

Friday, December 30, 2016

We Need More Women Lawyers Trying Civil Cases

Carrie Fisher, who famously portrayed Princess Leia, once said, "You are only as sick as your secrets."  A psychodramatist I know put it this way, "If you can't talk about it, "it" is out of control."
One of the reasons that lawyers fear going to trial is that once you stand up to talk to that jury about your client, you must also inform the client about who you are.  A good actor doesn't just pretend that he or she is the character he or she portrays.  Rather, a good actor becomes that character.  And in so doing, lays bare his or her soul.  The actor opens himself up, is vulnerable, and must trust the audience.  The same is true of the trial lawyer.  A trial lawyer, at least a real one, must believe in the case with all of her heart, must become vulnerable in releasing her love for her client or for her client's cause, must speak from not only the head, but also from the heart.  And the greatest risk of all to the client and to the lawyer is rejection from the twelve people seated in that juror box.  The jurors examine the lawyers, the clients, the witnesses.  Those of you who have been on juries know that talk about the personalities and presentation, and even looks, of the lawyers is common.  The client is an amateur and jurors know that the client does not make his living by appearing in court.  The client deserves sympathy, even empathy, but not so for the lawyer.  People say public speaking is the number one stress producer for most people, yet trial lawyers must face this fear and rise above it in service to their clients.

A trial is a zero sum game.  There is a winner and a loser.  Trials may be about jurors compromising, but the parties compromise not, or they would not be at the courthouse.  The acts of public speaking, having a client's case and maybe even his life in one's hand, competing in a public battle, and the risk of being vulnerable and rejected account for why so few lawyers actually try cases.  Trial lawyers are oftentimes egomaniacs, narcissistic and insecure. We are also oftentimes caring, magnanimous and generous.  But one thing is clear, trial lawyers are risk-takers. They are willing to suffer the valleys to experience the mountain peaks.

Women make very competent lawyers.  They work hard, sometimes harder than the men, but are often relegated to an "assisting" role in trial.  There are so many more female trail lawyers than there were over 30 years ago when I started practicing law.  But, I do not think women lawyers will will have real parity with men until they no longer assist, but command in their fields.  This is no more true than in trial.  I worry about implicit bias against women, that people, even women lawyers, but certainly the juries, implicitly believe that men are more competent than women. Yet, unless women are willing to take the risks of actually going to trial, we cannot combat implicit bias.  Social norms are created by what normally happens in society.  Whether or not a woman is the major child-rearer in her family is not as important as whether she is willing to take risks that male lawyers, with their egos and braggadocio, are willing to take. When people take risks they are open to more healthy risks.

People often quote the maxim that on our deathbeds few people bemuse that they wish they had spent more time at work.  That is probably true.  But, I believe there is a different regret that lawyers can have, when they look back on their careers, that they were too afraid to take risks that could not only benefit their clients, but could also make life exciting and satisfying.  Maybe someday women will earn as much as men, will be represented in government and politics as much as men, and will head major businesses as much as men.  Women, us, just need to dream and have the courage to follow those dreams.