"The unexamined life is not worth living," Socrates.
The other day I used this blog to vent about difficult lawyers and posted the venting on facebook. One of my friends wrote a reply that I found was dead on. Beth Kushner, a fine lawyer in Milwaukee said, . . . These are people who use a law license to act out their personal issues."
Wow. What a perceptive statement. Lawyers who are filled with unresolved anger, resentment, and pain can do a disservice to their clients. Instead of thinking about the interests of their clients, they are fighting against perceived bullies (who may have taunted them years ago) or are looking for self-validation or admiration, or, dare I say it, love. They are unhappy people and fierce and aggressive lawyers. Depositions may end with the statement, "Let's take it outside," or my favorite member measuring statement, "How many jury trials have you had? I bet you have never even tried one case to a jury." Lawyers trying to remedy some ancient slight are angry, and sometimes mean and bullying. Lawyers travel in packs, like dogs, and the rest of the pack may snicker when a witness or opposing counsel is humiliated.
In my opinion, bullying is not effective lawyering. We are not supposed to try to remedy childhood slights through representing others in lawsuits. This is not a testosterone laced event. We represent CLIENTS. We must be able to empathize, get in the skin of, our clients. Even better if we empathize with everyone involved.
We can not empathize, nor have compassion, for others without dealing with our own vulnerabilities. Lawyerng is not competing in an Mr. Universe competition. To represent your clients in the best way, we must have compassion which stems from self-knowledge. We are not bulls in China shops.
This is the hardest task of all. To be the best lawyer for the best reasons, lawyers need to know themselves and be self-actualized. There are many ways to get there. Counseling is a primary way that comes to mind. Participating in psychodramas is another. Until we understand what makes us tick, we can't understand what motivates our clients and all parties. Certainly, to understand bad conduct of opposing parties is not the same as condoning it.
Here are my 6 ways to get be a self-actualized lawyer. (People really dig these lists, don't they?)
1. Address your demons!! Demons keep coming back and keep going after them and understand them. They can be your friends. Counseling, psychodrama, group therapy, mediation, whatever floats your boat.
2. Take responsibility for your bad acts and bad characteristics and try to do better. Take responsibility, don't make excuses. Forgive and let go of grudges.
3. Imagine yourself in your client's shoes. Understand where/he or she is coming from. Do this with all parties.
4. Trust others unless someone has betrayed you. Be trustworthy and trusting.
5. Exercise regularly and perhaps learn to meditate.
6. Care about other people.
This may seem counter-intuitive, but the more compassionate you are, the better advocate you can be. You will be happier and the jury will like you better. And you won't end up a bitter, nasty, repugnant old man or woman. You can be an advocate and be compassionate to the other side. I promise.