Is This All Just New Age Fluffy Stuff?
There is still an idea out there that what we are talking about on this site is just "New Age Fluffy Stuff." The ABA Journal question of the week was:"In Your Practice, What Do You Focus on to See the Big Picture?" Following are a couple of the comments and my response:
1. OM. Now if we can only get clients to come to the mountaintop to inquire about the secrets of the universe. . .
2. The big picture that I reference when seeing silly twaddle like this is that the ABA, having fallen into the hands of New Age Boomers, has ceased to be an organization for serious professionals, and now puts out a publication that combines the most tedious aspects of Mother Jones, the Utne Reader, and Deepak Chopra’s Greatest Hits, the effects of which are reflected in its declining membership.
3. Isn’t one of the purposes of the ABA new attorney training about engagement letters a way to teach new attorneys to handle real clients? Until we cure clients’ belief that it is not stupid or dangerous to lie to your attorney, attorneys have to protect ourselves by limiting what we agree to handle for them. But now we have someone suggesting that we should take the approach of pretending we are capable of not only understanding the big picture of our client’s lives, but then fixing it. WOW I thought I could only be Wonderwoman on Halloween.
The idea that asking the question: "In Your Practice, What Do You Focus on to See the Big Picture" is silly twaddle and nothing but new age fluffy stuff displays a startling lack of imagination, vision, and basic history. There are a lot of solid psychological studies studies out there that show that lack of a clear sense of purpose and meaning, the big picture, is a major contributor to the sad statistics around lawyer depression, substance abuse, interpersonal problems, and lack of professional satisfaction. When "head" is split from "heart" major cognitive dissonance sets in. Practice being aligned with personal values, the bigger picture, is the foundation for a healthy, happy, lawyer. A healthy, happy, lawyer will be a better advocate for their clients and a lot easier to live with as a spouse.
Of course it is not the role of the lawyer to be a therapist. This does not preclude seeing clients as people, having some basic listening skills, and compassion. It does not preclude bringing an awareness of personal values to the case.
Here are some quotes from some other "New Age" thinkers about the bigger picture.
“I am not bound to win, but I am bound to be true. I am not bound to succeed, but I am bound to live by the light that I have. I must stand with anybody that stands right, and stand with him while he is right, and part with him when he goes wrong.” Abraham Lincoln
"Discourage litigation. Persuade your neighbors to compromise whenever you can. Point out to them how the nominal winner is often a real loser -- in fees, expenses, and waste of time. As a peacemaker the lawyer has a superior opportunity of being a good man. There will still be business enough." Abraham Lincoln
"Let us at all times remember that all American citizens are brothers of a common country, and should dwell together in the bonds of fraternal feeling." Abraham Lincoln
" He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?" Micah 6: 8
"Thus says the LORD, "Do justice and righteousness, and deliver the one who has been robbed from the power of his oppressor. Also do not mistreat or do violence to the stranger, the orphan, or the widow; and do not shed innocent blood in this place." Jeremiah 22:3
Justice is about more than just the facts. It is about righteousness as well. Living in right relationship to everyone: to ourselves, clients, the court, opposing counsel, and our greater community. That's the bigger picture.
Let me add just one more quote. Former Chief Justice Warren Burger once observed that: "The entire legal profession-- lawyers, judges, law teachers have become so mesmerized with the stimulation of the courtroom contest that we tend to forget that we ought to be healers-- healers of conflicts. Doctors, in spite of astronomical medical costs, still retain a high degree of public confidence, because they are perceived as healers. Should lawyers not be healers? Healers, not warriors? Healers, not procurers? Healers, not hired guns?"