Sunday, October 9, 2011

Let's Hear It For The Misfits, The Ones Ready To Buck The System

I grew up in the late '60's/early 70's and those years affected me enormously. When I was 15 years old, Martin Luther King, Jr. was shot. At the time of the Kansas City rioting I had not yet understood the significance of his death. Within the next few years, though, the Civil Rights Movement and the Vietnam War protests shaped who i was to become.

When my son started junior high school, at the annual parent-teacher meeting, the principal talked about nothing except the stupid rules, girl's skirts were not to be more than 2 inches over their knees, no students in the hall between classes, etc. I leaned over to my 12 year old boy and whispered, "Don't be afraid to question authority." It may or may not have been a turning point in my son's life, but that moment was significant to me.

This week Steve Jobs, a man of my generation, two years younger than me, died. He exemplified what a brilliant misfit could be when we he questioned the status quo. That Buddhist vegetarian is beloved and mourned by all of America, perhaps the world, for his creativity and innovation. Steve Jobs pushed the envelope. He didn't waste time conforming to society's expectations, he changed the world.

This week i have also been thinking of one of my client's, a whistleblower. As a result of her refusing to delete the truth from a medical record, she, a single mother, was fired. My client could not come up with the rent after her termination and she and her kids are on public assistance searching for shelter. She's a fighter. I am humbled by her and others like her. I want to show her that what she did was right and I pray I can do so.

Today we are supposed to have protests in Kansas City. The protesters here have been swayed by those protests on Wall Street and other places in this country. Is this a real movement? I don't know, but there is momentum. I have seen how one voice can make a difference. We are in a time now when we need to hear the voices of those who challenge the status quo. Let's hear it for the misfits, for they have the courage to make a difference!

Sunday, October 2, 2011

What makes a person a "good" client?

Lawyers, like other professionals, talk about "good clients.". Usually, the lawyer means a good client is someone who follows the lawyer's instructions. It's nice to be listened to and respected, but that is not  what makes a client "good." 

I have had so many "good clients" in the last 28 years.  My definition of what makes a client "good" is much more expansive. The good clients whom I have represented (which comprise the bulk of the clients I have represented) may be scared, inarticulate, with a mind of their own. They may not be perfect on the witness stand, they may have traits I have difficulty with, and, yes, at times they may disagree with me. Those characteristics don't negate a client's value. In fact, I represent Whistleblowers who, by nature, buck the status quo. I like that quality that makes some of my clients turn into rebels most of the time. 

Here are some of the qualities that I look for, and find, in prospective clients:

1. A desire for justice, not revenge. 

At times my clients are so angry that, at first, they want revenge. However, most of the time they can distinguish between justice and vengeance. Those seeking vengeance are rarely satisfied.  They must let go and seek justice. 

2.  The courage to go forward. 

I have represented so any courageous people and I am humbled by the association.

3.  Compassion for others, whether it be others whom they want to prevent from experiencing the pain, disrespect, and humiliation or family members they want to protect. 

4.  The insight into their strengths and weaknesses.  

No one respects someone who claims he or she is always right and will not admit to making mistakes or having faults. 

I have learned much from the wonderful people I have represented. Rarely do my clients ask me how much their case is worth. They care about the justice of the situation and making a difference. They hope when they get paid, that they have made a difference and that the money paid to them will prevent someone else from being hurt. 

It is not easy to be a whistleblower or to complain about unlawful discrimination. I am blessed because I gain so much from the brave souls who I represent. I realize that I have rarely thanked them for teaching me how to act with dignity through true adversity. 

To them, I say, "Thank you.  You're the best."