Thursday, August 26, 2010

Joke Issue

I decided to write a new post, because, quite frankly, my last two entries have been depressing me. My daughter is much better. She discontinued a medication she was on and she is feeling much better. Thank goodness.

Practicing law is serious business. In discrimination cases, emotions run high. Sometimes, you just need a break. I have one client who sends me humorous accounts of very serious matters, and I really appreciate his emails. Sometimes it becomes necessary, for spiritual, physical and psychological reasons, to laugh. I love to laugh. I love people who make me laugh. I love situations that make me laugh. I love movies that make me laugh out loud, embarrassing timid souls who are shocked by my guffaws in movie theaters (spoiler alert) for example - The Other Guys when Samuel L. Jackson and The Rock jump off the building.

So, I am going to share one of my favorite jokes, probably first told to me by John Nolte:

"When I die, I want to die peacefully in my sleep, the way my grandfather died. I do not want to die screaming and in pain like his passengers."

If you are reading this and are so inclined, please share your favorite joke. I love puns. I would prefer no potty humor or raunchy jokes. Please, make me laugh.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010


I sit here, in the emergency room going in the fifth hour of our wait, still not back in an examination room, waiting for my daughter to be seen. It's our thirty-sixth wedding anniversary. Emergency rooms are not new to us, but it's been over a year since we have been here for her devastating migraine pain. This is not a migraine, though. She has worked hard and got those mainly under control, with the help of the incredible neurologist who works at this hospital. This time she is here because of intensifying abdominal pain and nausea. She has already been to her internist, who told her to come to the emergency room. Hopefully, we will learn the source of this problem sooner rather than later and she can move forward on her plans, and begin to accomplish those dreams. She and here boyfriend want to marry and move to Florida. She wants to become a psychiatric nurse, or an ER nurse, I am sure not in small part because of her frequent visits these past two years to the emergency room. Or she may become a therapist using dogs and other pets for therapy. She loves her dogs. She has two degrees, one in political science and one in psychology, but ever since she was plagued by the constant debilitating migraine pain, her life has been on hold. When I was her age, I had completed my bachelor's degree, had been married four years, and was pregnant with our son. Her life is on hold, for now. I hope just for now. She has so many dreams and it hurts me to watch the pain stop her.

I know my daughter has headache pain almost constantly. I am amazed at how she has found the courage to move on, in the face of the pain. I can tell when she has a headache just by looking in her eyes. I no longer ask, though, because she doesn't want to talk about it, that just makes her think about it. She moves through the pain and plans for the future. In many ways, she is my hero. I have never told her this. Maybe I will tell her tonight.

Life is not always fair. I feel good being at this hospital because they have helped my daughter so much and a former client of mine, a truly wonderful woman, is the triage nurse here. Seeing this nurse calms me.

This hospital reminds me of another client. He is probably the bravest man I have ever met. He comes to this hospital for treatment. He has a terminal brain tumor. His equally brave
wife is also a patient of this hospital. Once the matter I represented her husband regarding was resolved and they planned to lead the best life possible, she was diagnosed with a rare and serious form of cancer. She has been treated here, but her treatment has not been so successful. The last time I saw the two of them, they were holding hands as they walked toward me. They have been blessed with a wonderful marriage and the kind of love about which movies are made. I pray that they have many years left together. I know they are making the best of what they have.

We are finally back in an examination room. I pray my daughter gets some relief. This was not the way my husband and I envisioned spending our 36th wedding anniversary. At least we are here together, with our daughter.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Why I Left the Trial Lawyers' College

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.