July 4th, 2017

Fourth of July

This Fourth of July I am focusing on acceptance. Acceptance to me means  lack of prejudgment. Acceptance means assuming another person has good qualities, Acceptance means finding the good qualities by engaging in nonjudgmental discussion. Even if we disagree there can still be acceptance.

Acceptance requires honesty. So long as we are truthful and willing to listen to each other we can find commonality. Commonality as in mutual respect even when we have different view points. Even with different view points we can remain honest with one another and respect mutual honesty and willingness to openly discuss differences.

The world would be a boring place if we had no differences. Different races, different economic backgrounds and different ages give us variety. We can learn from others who are different than us so long as we are willing to accept the other person for who they are and what they have to offer.

When we accept the other person, the other person recognizes this. The other person may not change their view, but we accept each other. Differences combined with acceptance make us a great nation.

    June 27th, 2016

    I Know That I Know Nothing

    54780441 - graffiti on a brick wall - live in the moment

    Socrates reportedly said, “I know that I know nothing.” An internet review reveals many comments on what Socrates meant by his “know nothing” statement.

    To me Socrates means a wise person approaches any situation without a preconceived agenda. A preconceived agenda assumes the person has thought out a future event and pre-planned how he is going to deal with the future event. Thus, he goes into the event believing he knows what is going to happen, and how he is going to react. He then reacts in a plastic pre-planned way.

    Socrates’ statement, he knows that he knows nothing, translates to going into an event with an open mind. Following Socrates’ philosophy requires one to live in the moment without a preconceived agenda. It requires us to trust our self in the present and to react in our natural spontaneous way. In this way we are open to the moment and appreciate what is happening in the now with full awareness of the now.

    As lawyers, when we follow the know nothing philosophy, we practice law without a preconceived agenda. We are present in the moment. We are open to what is occurring in the moment. We naturally react to the moment, and this natural reaction will be recognized by others as “real.”

    Now a days I am trying to follow the Socrates method of realizing I know nothing. In the initial client interview this allows me to focus on my potential client. Thus, I listen without an agenda. I listen without pre-thinking my response before my potential client finishes her story. I allow her story to sink in, and then react in the moment, trying not to be judgmental. My potential client sees and feels my presence and that she is talking to a lawyer who is open to her story and understands her story.

    This accomplishes several things: first, it makes me a lawyer who lives in the moment, without an agenda and who fully appreciates his potential client; second, it allows me to discover my client at my highest level; and third, I am then able to obtain the best result possible by staying in the moment without an agenda.

      May 10th, 2016

      Personal Injury as Tragedy

      Having learned from Simon Rifkind all trials are plays, (See Lessons from Simon Rifkind), I sought a theatrical formula appealing to audiences over time that mirrors a personal injury case. The type of play that fits a personal injury case is tragedy. Research reveals Aristotle in Poetics sets forth what has become the classic formula of tragedy.

      Plato and Aristotle argue10223276_Sd on whether the study of tragedy was worth a philosopher’s time. Plato maintained all theater including tragedy is simply entertainment that does not rise to the level of interest to a philosopher. Aristotle disagreed. Aristotle argued tragedy at the highest level involved the audience. The audience sees the tragic plot in cause and effect sequences that mirror universal truth. In high level tragedy two things happen to members of the audience. First, they pity the tragic hero. Second, they fear the tragic result (the adversity) could happen to them. Aristotle maintains when this occurs the audience experiences a cathartic event – a purification or spiritual renewal.

       

      Applied to a personal injury case, when it is tried at the highest level, the jury identifies with the plaintiff and pities the tragic result dealt plaintiff. The jury also fears the result could happen to them. The catharsis occurs in the verdict as the jury rights the wrong in the only way this can be done as jurors.

      It is important to note true tragedy is not staged or made up. As taught by Aristotle it represents reality. Tragedy happens in life. People recognize tragedy and if possible want to remedy tragedy. This is why it makes sense for a personal injury lawyer to study the dynamics of tragedy. When these dynamics are present in we have a case worthy of the production of a trial.

        April 29th, 2016

        Lessons from Simon Rifkind

         The late Simon Rifkind was a Wall Street lawyer and partner in the firm Paul, Weiss, Rifkind. He was appointed by Franklin D. Roosevelt, as Federal Judge, 19604344_SSouthern District of New York, where he served from 1941-1950. He voluntarily left the federal bench because he was bored by poor lawyering which according to Rifkind, was the rule rather then the exception.

        Mr. Rifkind’s passion was trying cases. He was a renaissance trial lawyer in that he never wanted to try the same type of case more then once. Rather he wanted to try cases in differing subject areas so he could immerse himself into the area. This allowed him to learn about new areas of life and law through trying cases.

        Once a case gets to trial, Simon Rifkind believes the dynamics of trial take place. To Rifkind, a trial is a play. There is a hero (usually his client) and a villain (usually the opposition). The jury is the audience, the judge, lawyers, and witness actors. The lawyer has a unique position as he is both an actor and producer of the play. Rifkind teaches, trials like plays, must have a theme. The theme should announce the client’s cause with the ends of justice.

        Rifkind is right, a trial is like a play. From a client standpoint, the biggest mistake occurs when the client appears to be too involved with their lawyer in trying the case. This is off plot. The lawyer is the person who is expected to try the case. When the client appears to be telling the lawyer what to do, or when the client appears too strident, jurors dislike the client; the client loses the image of the hero and becomes a wanna be lawyer. The client will lose when
        this happens.

        From a lawyer’s perspective it is essential to remain like a duck. A duck looks calm above the water, but below the water unobserved the duck is paddling briskly to stay afloat. The lawyer must keep a cool demeanor in the face of the adversity that will occur at trial. The lawyer must also show professionalism to opposition counsel, witnesses, and the judge. The lawyer should never appear to be a bully or out of control. There is nothing wrong with destroying an opposition witness, and this at times needs to be done, but it needs to be performed calmly, methodically and with professionalism.

        It is also important to recognize that unlike a play, the stage in a trial is anywhere a juror may observe the client, lawyer, or witnesses. Rifkind would agree to dress and act like going to and being in church at all times anywhere in or even near the courthouse. This will not in and of itself win the case, but if lack of professionalism is observed by a juror this harms the case.