Sunday, March 31, 2013

Unpaid Workers: The NCAA's Indentured Servants

For the life of me, I don't understand how they get away with this. These fat cat colleges, the multi-millionaire college coaches, and the highly paid bureaucrats at the NCAA make big, big money off college sports.  Cities all over the country rake in piles of dough when fans come calling, paying lavishly at stadiums, hotels and bars as the basketball or football teams duke it out.  With this college sports system, everyone wins!  Everyone wins except the players. 

Just who are these young denizens worthy of awe and worship?  Kids, they're kids. Kids willing to risk their life and limb to participate in the sports they love. People say college sports give opportunities, such as a college education, to some who could ill-afford it. True. These kids, 18 - 22 year olds, have high hopes and dreams. Sometimes the dreams come true.  Someone has to win the Heisman trophy and go on to a long career of fame and wealth. But, the fact of the matter is that most of these kids don't make it to the pros, let alone have illustrious careers, and their college athletic careers may be the pinnacle of their lives. 

For the time being, let's ignore the physical toll these kids pay, brain damage, broken bones, torn ligaments, which oftentimes plague these players throughout their lives.  Let's look at the economic consequences to these kids that give their all for the love of their college team. Those who do not make it to the pros oftentimes leave school without a college degree.  They were there to play the sport they loved, not really to go to classes. I don't know what the future holds for these young has-beens.  All I know is that a lot of people cash in on the blood, sweat and tears of these unpaid young athletes.  But these kids who may develop traumatic arthritis or closed head injuries don't get to share in the spoils, even if their teams are the victors. 

In what other business in this country do the workers raking in big bucks for fat cats get totally shafted? We were supposed to have abolished indentured servitude long ago.  Everyone else in America who works gets paid. Why not these guys?  If colleges won't pay them, the NCAA or other agency should set up farm teams, like baseball. These kids work hard and risk their bodies and souls for their team. For crying out loud, let's quit wringing out the best from them and discarding them at the end of four years.  These hard-working kids deserve to be paid!  Their coaches are; the athletic directors are; and so is the NCAA. These kids need a union in the worst way. 

Friday, March 29, 2013

Nursing - Perhaps the Most Honorable Profession of All

I read an article in the New York Times which said people who help others by deeds are happier than those who give money. I am not surprised. I recently found myself uncharacteristically hospitalized in an emergency, non-life-threatening situation.  While the care was fabulous, the people who helped me most were not the fine doctors, but were the dedicated and hard-working nurses. The nurse who gave me the majority of care was Julia Hartman of St. Luke's East Hospital, was a godsend.  

The nurses comforted me.  They constantly asked if I needed anything. They were concerned that I experience the least amount of pain possible. They were warm, smiling and comforting. They executed their increasingly technical talents with skill and compassion. No task was beneath them, no task left them daunted.  

The nurses provided me the comfort and encouragement I needed.  They are filled with energy and humanity for the 12 long hours of each shift. The man in the room next to me shrieked, "Get away!" all night.  Yet the nurses continued providing care and compassion to the most difficult among us.  

When I was in college, I did not want a "traditionally female" job, like nurse, or teacher, or secretary.  How foolish and immature of me.  Nurses and others provide us with care and comfort.  Teachers educate us and our children and are instrumental in the future of humanity.  Secretaries make sure that businesses run. 

I can think of no more valuable profession than nursing.  We work them long  hours  for completely inadequate pay in light of their training, skill, and responsibility.  The nurses at St. Luke's East were angels to me. No matter my pain level or discomfort, they were their to reassure me and heal me. They were smart, warm, and efficient. I am proud of my nieces who will join their ranks. 

Their is no more honorable profession than nursing. Thank you Julia Hartman.  You are a wonderful person. 

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Psychodrama - The Action Method in Kindergarten

When I went to the Trial Lawyers College in 1994, I had never heard of psychodrama. In the First several days, I learned a lot. John Nolte, a preeminent psychodramatist, showed us how re-enacting events and role-reversals can rock your world. Psychodrama was developed by Dr. J. L. Moreno, an Austrian physician for psychological therapy. He emigrated to the United States in the early Twentieth Century and set up psychodrama centers.  Moreno described psychodrama as "truth in action."   Trial lawyers use psychodrama to prepare for trial, to find out their clients' truths.

I was captivated by the transformative effects of psychodrama and actively pursued training. I learned about myself and others. I learned to value and develop empathy and compassion. I learned to listen to others and to understand my clients, the witnesses in cases and others.  I gained experience in psychodramatic techniques and went so far to become a certified practitioner, through study and practice and I believe I have benefited wildly from the experience.

I have considered the benefits of psychodrama for me personally and as a lawyer, but I did not think about other possible applications until today.  My husband and I both volunteer in a kindergarten. The teacher is caring, intelligent and imaginative. Today, she told me she read her little students a story. First, she told them to shut their eyes while they listened. When she asked them to relay the story, they did not do well. She then had them listen to a story with their eyes open. They couldn't relay it well again. Next, she had them act out the story. They all had vivid recollections of the story and wrote amazing renditions. Most of these kids are 6 years old. Wow, psychodrama in kindergarten!

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Too Old to Rock?

I remember when the Beatles sang "When I'm 64," never imagining they would ever get that old. The remaining members, Ringo and Paul, are older than that now.  As I get older,my views of what is old are changing. My grandmother retired from her factory job in her early 60's, only to go back to school to become an L.P.N. at the age of 63 when my grandfather died. We marveled at how someone so old could go back to school and do well.  She did do well, too, until she was forced to retire at age 70. In her last 9 years she never regained the vitality and drive she found in her 60's, deprived of the vocation she had loved in the short time she was able to flourish. 

When I first started handling discrimination cases, after the Civil Rights Act was amended in 1991 to allow jury trials, I figured I would handle these cases for ten years or so until unlawful discrimination was wiped out. I started out handling personal injury cases, for both plaintiffs and defendants.  Discrimination cases were more interesting to me, as a child of the 1960's and 1970's. In the early 90's, I didn't think much about age discrimination. It was sexual harassment and race discrimination that I found interesting. Not surprisingly, as I aged, I saw more age discrimination. But, I figured discrimination would be on the downswing by the turn of the century. I was naive. 

The federal government amended the Age Discrimination in Employment Act to eliminate the age 70 limit to discrimination, but the state of Missouri did not. With people living longer and longer, more and more people will want to continue to work after 70, especially after the demise of employer funded retirement plans for growing segments of society.  But employers are not always willing to accommodate the desires of older wannabe workers.  

If you are a federal judge or a U.S. Senator, you can expect gainful employment well into your 70's, or 80's or older. The remainder of U.S. employees are not so fortunate. If you are a man or woman in your 50's and seeking employment, you are pretty screwed in this country. I'm old, at 60, but I am fortunate to be self-employed. I profit from the misfortune of others my age, who aren't lucky enough to have their own businesses. 

It's true that some people are infirm and unable to work into advanced age. So are some younger people. However, in our beauty, youth-conscious culture we sometimes ignore those people who have learned much from life and have much yet to contribute.  I wonder what my grandmother might have accomplished if she was allowed to work as long as she was able. I doubt she would have succumbed to the crippling depression that plagued her in her final years. 

Now, when I look into a mirror, I am struck by the image of my grandmother staring back at me.  At 60, I, too, have gone back to school, mainly for fun. I am taking a physics course now since I skipped most sciences and math when I was young and an undergrad, and I am having a blast. I am a much better student now, since I am not caught up in planning my wedding and partying into the night. Right now, I am watching Mick Jagger on television, the oldest, coolest, weirdly sexiest old man rocker there is. He's way older than me. Aretha Franklin just got done singing, another senior citizen. She was on after B.B. King, who is closer to 90 than 80. 

Here's to the senior citizens!  Let them have some jobs!

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Should You Go To Law School To Become a Trial Lawyer?

There are many reasons people go to law school, some make sense to me and others do not.  Some people come from a long line of lawyers and are expected to go.  That was not my case.  Some people want prestige, status, bragging rights, whatever will satisfy their egos. Unfortunately, I cannot claim those things mean nothing to me, but I am working on them.

Here are my top ten reasons to embark on the costly (in law school and in effort post-law school) path of being a trial lawyer:

You get satisfaction from helping another person or serving a cause. 

You love to have your creativity juices flowing - in looking at the story of your client's case.  In essence, you are creative.  

You are logical.  Law, even scientific laws or principles, are inherently logical. You like working out puzzles and billing logical stories. 

You are willing to take significant risks.  When you are a trial lawyer, each case is a contest.  You must be willing to fight for your client and sometimes that means losing. A 400 batting average is great in baseball but piss-poor for a trial lawyer.  Your ego, and oftentimes your livelihood is on the line. And in every case, your duty is to your client first. 

You are empathetic and a good listener.  I could write on an on about he importance of compassion, not just for your client, but for all participants in the litigation process. If you just want to talk because of your tremendous ego, and you won't listen to others, you will have a hard time as a lawyer. 

You are introspective. You know what makes you tick so you don't get your emotions confused. You have to know and understand yourself before you can become empathetic. Knowing yourself can take a lot of work. 

You are persistent, with thick skin. Sometimes it can take 6 or 7 years to win a case, after appeals and whatnots. You cannot take things personally. You must be able to be above the fray to stay cool. 

You are a self-starter.  This is part of the risk taking.  The best part, and perhaps the worst part of being a trial lawyer is you are likely to be your own boss or bring in your own cases. If you love not having a boss,  trial lawyer be the job for you. 

You enjoy speaking in public.  You have guts when you need to have them. You are willing to challenge authority. 

You enjoy learning about new things and you love to read. Laws evolve. Cases can be about mechanics, pharmaceuticals, professional malpractice.  The law can be a fascinating place.  It can also be boring and stale. You need to be willing to take on the exciting jobs, even if they may pay less.

Notice,I didn't mention money. As a lawyer, you have the opportunity to make a lot of money.  But, there are a lot easier ways to make money. If money is what motivates you, become a defense contractor or investment banker. It will be less confusing. 

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Interesting Graphic from Allison Morris about Women on the Web

Women and the Web: Why Internet Access Matters. - tap on the link below:
In a majority of western countries, women have a huge web presence, using it, on average, 17% more than men. In western Europe and most of North America, women tend to use social media more, they tend to shop online more, and most of them simply make up more website traffic than men. But in developing nations, with prohibited freedom, lower literacy rates, and lack of technological knowledge, many women are missing out on the Internet. In developing nations, while both genders tend to have more limited Internet connectivity than those in the west, there are still some very surprising discrepancies in how much more often men are able to access the web. In fact, in some extreme cases, as many as 70% of a nation’s men have accessed the web before, compared to just 14% of women. But when women are able to gain access to the Internet, they begin to do powerful things with it. Among women in developing nations, many of those who have been able to access the web have used it to find work, do research, and otherwise seek an additional income source for their families. The following infographic examines how now, more than ever, women in developing nations need the web.
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