When I first started practicing law, 26 years ago, I read a book about how female lawyers could be in the game with the men. Several of the women said that they had decided to forgo families and essentially be "married" to their careers. At the time I thought, are they crazy? How can you sustain interest in the law when you have nothing else? At the time, my son was four, I had been married for nine years and I wanted another child. I decided to practice law my way, taking my kids to depositions and on out of town trips, including them whenever I could. It seemed to me life is what you make it. It wasn't an issue of having it all, it was an issue of knowing what was important. That's not to say I didn't make mistakes from time to time, but in the end (or hopefully, closer to the middle), I am who I am because of my relationships and my experiences with others. I wonder what happened to those women who "lived" the law; if they got burned out, if they developed meaningful relationships, if they fell satisfied. I hope they found what they sought.
I bring this up because I have been thinking about relationships. I was on the staff of the second week of the Graduate Seminar at the Trial Lawyers College back in August. Fredi Sison was in charge of the curriculum and she developed an exercise that was quickly named "Discovering the Characters." We explored a case and the relationships between the important people in the Plaintiff's life. I thought, and think, the exercise was brilliant. Our relationships tell so much about us and who we are. In movies and books, I gravitate to stories where there is more character, rather than plot, development. I want to identify with other people. I think most of us do.
I have also been thinking about one of my former clients and how I could identify with her. We settled her case the day before trial. I remember her talking to us about her kids. Two were in college and one had moved away. When she talked about her kids, she lit up. She spoke to each of her children several times a day. When we met her kids, they shared humorous stories about our client. Every Saturday morning, when they were home, they tried to arise before their mom, because Saturday was her cleaning day and she would go on a rampage. My client's son, in a teasing tone to his mother, said she was like a quarterback getting psyched for the big game. The easy way in which my client and her kids traded good-natured barbs reminded me of my own smart-mouthed, sweet children. I fell in love with my client that morning. She became so real and someone with whom I could identify.
We are the product of our relationships, whether good or bad; regardless of whether we rebel against those relationships or accept them. I believe Fredi's exercise is beneficial not only in preparing for trial, but also in living life. Thanks, Fredi.