Why I Left TLC
I envisioned starting this piece with a line from Mark Antony's famous speech in Shakespeare's Julius Caesar, "I come to praise TLC, not to bury it." In reality, Antony not only buried Brutus, but rallied the citizens to rebel against him. My purpose is not to persuade, but just to explain why I left. There probably are not that many people who know that I resigned from the Trial Lawyer College staff and fewer who know why I did so.
Why am I writing this now? I can think of two reasons. The summer session of TLC just ended and I read about it on facebook. Quite frankly, I miss the beauty and inspiration of the ranch and I miss my friends. The last few nights I have been having unpleasant dreams about my departure from TLC. I even dreamed that I was begging to return. That is something that in reality I have no desire to do. However, my leaving TLC at times is very painful.
I participated in TLC from the first class in 1994. TLC blew me away. Especially the psychodrama. I came to the ranch in more pain than I could admit to myself. Through psychodrama, through the years, not only did I work through my pain, but I began to really understand who I am. The more I knew and loved myself, the better I knew and loved my clients. I became a better person and a better lawyer. I credit John Nolte, one of the psychodramatists at the ranch, for giving me the courage to explore me and who I was and how I got there. Becoming a better lawyer was incidental to my personal growth. However, I grew as a lawyer exponentially through my struggles as a human. I will be forever grateful to the Trial Lawyers College for starting me on this path.
Through this self-realization and self-actualization, i increasingly found that my views on what was right for me and my clients differed sometimes from what I was teaching and witnessed being taught at TLC. Trial lawyers oftentimes have big egos. Winning is important, but many times I wondered if we talked about winning for us as opposed to winning for our clients. The more I grew, the more I knew that the true satisfaction in being a trial lawyer comes from serving our clients who desperately need our voices. Being a trial lawyer, for me, must be about my clients. It feels hollow and empty to talk about win/loss records instead of how our clients are fulfilled or our quest to even the playing field. I became clear about why I practice law and what I want to accomplish. I trust myself in court. That does not mean I am invincible, just that I know who I am and what I want to accomplish. The most important evolution for me is not only understanding, I mean truly understanding my clients. I have come to love most of my clients. Practicing law this way is not only effective, but also fulfilling.
Now back to the Trial Lawyers College. Through the years, as is common in institutions, discord and dissent start to erode the foundation on which the institute is built. Obviously, TLC remains a very effective and innovative way to help trial lawyers and their clients. But, it appeared to me that the role of psychodrama was going to change. When John Nolte was forced off the board and ultimately left TLC, that was probably the turning point for me. When I heard that the concentration was going to be on what I thought looked like a "trick"- finding the "betrayal" in the story, I was dismayed. It sounded to me as much a device as first-person opening statements for every trial. It began to sound phony.
I won't lie and say that the decision to eliminate the board liaison was not a blow to me personally. However, in the long run, that decision made sense. What did not make sense to me was excluding one of the most innovative teachers from staff, Fredilyn Sison, for reasons I don't understand. I just could not stomach such hurtful conduct to such a sweet, caring soul.
Finally, I am going to verbalize one of the features of TLC that always bothered me. It was not until Fredi's exclusion that I gathered the courage to leave. TLC is a very sexist place, or at least it was. I have high regard for Anne Valentine and Cyndy Short. I hope, with their oversight, women will fare better. I finally decided that at age 57, after 27 years as a lawyer, I did not have to smile and let the men take over. I have had my own firm for many years and i got tired of feeling like the testosterone was impenetrable.
Don't get me wrong. TLC can be and often is a magical place. I learned so much from my experiences there, and I love so many of the people still associated with TLC. I would recommend TLC unhesitatingly to young lawyers. But, I am proud of myself for recognizing when it was time for me to move on.