Sunday, April 20, 2014

Misfit Underdogs

By all objective measures, so far this year, my firm has had a good year.  We have had two trials, almost back to back, and won the first one big time, and won the second pretty good.  Hold on, though, we have more trials coming up and our winning record could very well plummet.  Time will tell. Sometimes I tell my clients that what my job really entails is being a professional gambler.  We generally work on a contingent fee basis.  We take significant financial and emotional risks when we take on a case.  We usually grow to love our clients and understand the devastating effects litigation can have on a person, especially when the case is lost.  As a lawyer, I learn valuable lessons from losing a case, but I fear my clients are not so lucky.  The last time I remember a significant loss, I grieved for six months, for my client and for myself.

I believe that when a case is lost, it is ultimately the lawyer's fault.  I hear people say, "We got a bad jury, or the client was unlikeable, or the judge hated us."   That's baloney.  Either you did a bad job in jury selection, you failed to empathize with your client, you failed to empathize with the job, or you were selling a bill of goods you felt were defective and you should never had taken the case.  That is what 30 years as a trial lawyer has taught me.

Even though going to trial is frightening, it can be invigorating.  I have seen clients who transform, back into what I imagine they were like before the harassment or retaliation.  It can be magical.  And for any adrenaline-junky lawyer like me, it can be a great high, until the adrenaline crashes and my whole being crashes with it.

Since I and my firm represent clients in discrimination matters, I mainly feel like a rebel warrior, fighting the awful corporate strongholds for justice.  Ha!  It is fun to have such a romanticized self-view, even when it may be much more economic than romantic.  But, I still tell myself I am a rebel.  My favorite saying is from Gandhi, "First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you and then you win."  We are not part of the status quo.  I tell myself that our job is to level the playing field, ya da ya day ya da.  We aren't part of a mega-law firm.  We don't follow the rules (actually, generally we do because we want to keep our law licenses.)

Well, this year, I was apparently nominated for two awards.  I do not know who nominated me for either award.  I do not know the criteria except in general terms for either award, but I am receiving them along with others.  Both awards are for litigation, one for a career of litigation, the other for being a woman litigating. I am getting ready for a fancy schmancy dinner, the kind I usually don't go to, to hob nob with other rewardees at a fancy hotel in front of important people in fancy clothes.  The second award will be in a more relaxed atmosphere with many of the Kansas City bar present.

I relate this not to toot my own horn (in truth, perhaps to toot my own horn somewhat).  I am extremely honored and grateful, because being recognized is much more important to me than my "rebel" self knew.  Yet, I have this part of me that believes that people tend to abuse money, power, fame, unless they have an unusual constitution and a great deal of pre-existing self-esteem.  While I realize that these awards are not Pulitzers or Nobel prize, it is a little disconcerting to my self-image as a misfit rebel to be honored by the powerful among my profession.  Yikes!  Will I start having dinner parties and playing golf, while discussing my investment portfolio?  Is there Botox or lypo-suction in my future?  Should I dye my nearly all white hair back to the unnatural (I was a dark haired brunette) blondish hue I had for years that cost tons of money and time? Or, my greatest fear of all, will I have to start dieting again after swearing off a lifetime of yo-yo dieting?

I truly appreciate being recognized.  However, these awards are wreaking havoc with my perceived rebel creds.  I feel like a pirate being honored by the British Navy or the Sheriff of Nottingham acknowledging the good work of Robin Hood.  In reality, I am probably no Robin Hood nor pirate, but more like an annoying horsefly that buzzes in your ear until you swat it dead.

Well, here is for the horseflies, the persistent pests who won't bid rid from buzzing your face!  Here is to dog that whines at your feet until you feed it a table scrap!  Here is to the persistent souls, who, regardless or talent or intelligence, refuse to give up!  Here is to the misfit underdog!

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