Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Why People Hate Lawyers

For those of us who have been on this earth for more than a few years, we are sure to be faced with hard decisions that change the directions of our lives. Few of us recognize the importance of these life-changing decisions at the time they arise. For instance, as lawyers, we are confronted with situations where we must choose which way we will function as lawyers.  Will we work for the people who pay us the most, regardless of the underlying principles?  Will we defend that tobacco company if it makes us rich in the process. Will we stomp on the rights of weak and helpless?  Will we sell out for the biggest bucks?  Can we rationalize our decisions?  How will our rationalizations impact on our character, or lack of character, as the case may be. 

I was recently in depositions with older, experienced lawyers, who probably at one time were idealistic young, compassionate people. They probably had great loves and cared deeply about social issues.  But something must have happened to them. Our client was grievously injured and the gaggle of lawyers assigned to represent the various parties seem prone to screaming, arguing and belittling us and our case. I wonder if they just force themselves to eradicate thoughts of our client, for how could anyone see this brave, hard-working, severely injured man and not feel empathy and admiration.  What happens to people when making money, buying that fancy car, insulting others to build ones ego becomes more important than human decency. 

I certainly am not a paragon of virtue. I used to work for the dark side myself, but after awhile, it should become hard. We should examine our motives. We should keep caring and compassion for our fellow humans.  It is sad when someone loses his or her humanness.  

No wonder people don't like lawyers. We like to use our voices just to hear their sound, we bully innocent, less powerful people and we put ourselves and our egos before justice and our clients. 

There are things more important than money, status, and the need to feel important.  Most lawyers started out wanting to do good and be fair.  What happens?  A thousand little decisions.  Go work for the firm that pays the most, make that argument that you don't believe, fudge on the facts so you have a better argument, and, most important of all, throw your compassion out the window.  It sure is tempting when the reward is money and social status.

There are lots of lawyers who hate practicing law and I suspect the main reason for that is because those lawyers do things of which they are not proud.  How sad to be at the end of one's career and still trying to bully witnesses and opposing counsel.  Bullying is certainly not restricted to middle school high jinx. 

Lawyers who hate what they do should leave the practice of law. I am tired of having to deal with them. Good riddance.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Creativity and Growth - My Lucky Turn with the Fabulous 3 Sisters

One of the things I love about being a trial lawyer is that I continue to learn and grow, both as a lawyer and as a person. Two years ago I made a fateful decision which was very hard, to quit being associated with the Trial Lawyers College and to take another leap of faith. I will be eternally indebted to TLC for all I learned, mainly about myself.  Gerry Spence always said we need to work on knowing ourselves to be able to be the best trial lawyer we can be, and he is so right. I spent 15 years at TLC, almost 14 of them on staff, the last couple of years as a liaison to the Board.  I am so indebted to John Nolte, Don Clarkson, Kathie Sinclair and Katlin Larimer for how they helped me be me.  There are so many people at TLC whom I care very much about.  However, in 2009, it was time for me to leave, just as how it had been time for me to leave my old firm in 1994 when I first came back from TLC. One thing about learning who you are is recognizing when it is time to make a change.  Listening to your gut, following your intuition, is one way of taking care of yourself.

After I left TLC, I felt a little isolated.  Not only had I burned bridges with TLC, but also with my fellow friends and ex-pats, who now call themselves the 3 Sisters.  Those three women had big ideas, starting their own trial lawyer training program, writing a book, continuing to grow.   When I was first asked to help with the 3 Sisters seminars, I said no.  I was conflicted. It took me awhile to know what I should do. 

The 3 Sisters, Joane, Fredi, and Mary had already started their seminars with Carl Bettinger and Charlie Abourezk.  A year went by and Joane approached me again. I missed the intellectual stimulation of the college and I missed my friends, so I somewhat reluctantly agreed.  I did not want to get back in a rat race of jetting to various locations to teach.  At first I was unsure of my commitment to 3 Sisters.  

I soon discovered the true creativity, intellect and caring of these friends - and I include Carl and Charlie in this. This collaboration has been exciting. It has opened me up to new ideas and experiences and is a blast!  I feel the excitement one feels when she gets IT, the big IT!!!!!  When I started at TLC, I had tried several cases, but I was still scared.  I am no longer scared. I love being in the courtroom talking to the good citizens of this state about my clients who I generally have grown to love. I know that when I am in the courtroom, advocating for justice for my clients,  that is where I should be. I am at peace with what I do, and my job is thrilling. 

The 3 Sisters is filed with brilliant, caring, creative people (I am not so conceited to include myself in that description). When we get together at one of the seminars, the creative ideas grow exponentially.  But for me, knowing I am where I need to be, in my life, in my profession and at 3 Sisters is  so gratifying. 

My last trial was in June. The case was settled after the first week. That case illustrated for me what it feels like to be in the zone - to love my client, to feel the justice of my client's position and to know I, along with my wonderful client, were up to the task. 

I am so blessed to work with Joane Garcia-Colson, Fredilyn Sison, Mary Peckham, Carl Bettinger and Charlie Abourezk. They are the best. I mean that in a colloquial way, but also in a very real way. THEY ARE THE BEST!!!  The most caring, creative, intelligent lawyers I know. I am blessed. 

Friday, November 11, 2011

Money - A Complicated Concept

Money - what a complicated concept.  Money brings out the best and worst in us.  Money means many things to us.  Money is synonymous with freedom, security and power.  Just as with anything pleasurable, food, drugs, or sex, money can be overly desired and become addictive. 

I recently read that a survey was done of people with net worths of over$20,000,000.  They were asked if they either wanted to maintain their wealth or increase it.  80% of those in this wealthy category wanted to increase their wealth.  Not being in this category, I wonder when is enough enough?  

Let's look at recent news. We all are affected by the debacle on Wall Street. I recently watched the movie "Margin Call." the demise of the investment bankers, and our economy, was caused by greed, pure and simple.  What about the scandal at Penn State?  Why was an assistant coach allowed to sexually abuse young boys for years?  Who wanted to rock the boat and bring down a very financially successful football program?  The root of the cover up was greed, nothing less.  

So how does this relate to the legal system?  As civil plaintiffs' lawyers we seek money for our clients, and, truth be told, for ourselves.  When is enough enough?  I suppose it depends on perspective.  We all know plaintiffs' lawyers whom we think may be motivated by greed.  In my situation, I wonder if my indictment of these rich lawyers might be mixed with some jealousy.  However, the insurance industry and society is quick to point out the social ills allegedly caused by a greedy plaintiffs' bar. 

Let's examine some real life situations that insurance companies and businesses fail to mention.  There are products sold in this country by major retailers that are devastatingly dangerous to American citizens.  The consumer product safety commission is mired in bureaucracy.  Companies, when successfully sued, can file bogus bankruptcies under our system, even where they are not insolvent to avoid trial or paying judgments.  Individuals who own multiple million or billion dollar companies move to Hong Kong or other places to avoid service of process, dissolving their companies and reopening them under bogus names.  You may think that these situations cannot be happening in modern times in this country.  I have two current cases where this is happening now.   The bottom line for these owners of companies is to protect their enormous wealth at the expense of gravely injured or damaged victims.  And America's biggest corporations help these greedy people evade responsibility. 

 In the end, I believe that my clients will prevail.  I, and the other lawyers representing the injured, will continue to fight for our clients.  But the love of money, the root of all evil, is a formidable opponent.  With excess money, comes excess power.  It is hard to fight against the power of too much money, but not impossible.  

Excessive money is seductive and is likely to corrupt.  It is not the plaintiffs' lawyers who are  hurting others to maintain possession of billions.  Corporations are not people, no matter what the Supreme Curt may say, they can be the means by which greedy people circumvent decency to line the pockets of its greedy masters at the expense of the health and wealth of living, breathing humans.  It is that which we must combat.