Sunday, April 22, 2007

A Response to Futility

I'm not sure what it is, but lately, so many people around me are acting as though everything is futile. Maybe it's the job we do. Or maybe it's got something to do with a 23-year-old kid gunning down over 30 people for no reason anyone can comprehend. But over and over again, I keep hearing that there's no point to working up a trial (for example) because we're just going to lose anyway. Or why should we get involved in anything, because no one is going to listen.

This is a self-fulfilling prophecy. Of course if you go into a thing believing it will fail, you aren't going to put all you can into it. Therefore, it probably will fail. If you speak out on something believing no one will listen to you, they won't. Why should they, if you don't believe what you say is important enough to be listened to?

I can't tell you how many trials I've won that I thought I was going to lose. I also cannot tell you how many clients I've had who lost their trials and thanked me profusely for trying for them, even though it didn't work. I've also had clients who wrote me letters while juries were deliberating, that said, in different words, "no matter how it comes out, thank you for helping me." I've had clients that took plea bargains, rather than going to trial, and ended up in prison who still wrote me letters about how they appreciated what I'd done for them.

I know it's an over-used cliche, but life really is a journey. It's not only about results. Don't get me wrong, results are great. I'm happy about good results and upset about bad ones. (It's the perfectionist in me, I think.) But that's not all there is to either this job, or to life. When I'm on my death-bed and I'm thinking about the life I've led, I'm not going to say, "I wish I'd won that trial," or "I wish I'd made more money." I'm (probably) going to say, "I wish I'd been kinder to more people," or "I wish I'd tried harder to help them." I don't know if you all have noticed, but the people around you notice when you try to help them. Especially if there haven't been many people who've tried to help them in the past. And isn't that what this job, and this life, are about?

When put in this context, how can anyone say something is futile? We have no way of knowing what the "results" will be of our actions, or how our actions will affect those around us. Our purpose is simply to try. To help. To show kindness.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Procrastinators of the World, Unite!

Ok, so I've always been something of a procrastinator. I studied for exams the night before, I wrote papers the night before. It took me until two weeks before the bar exam to start studying for it! I've tried to be better about this. I try to prep my trials earlier and pay my taxes before April 15. Nevertheless, I still am reviewing my jury panels the day before trials, and I just now finished filing my taxes. A whole day early! Of course, that could have something to do with the fact that I thought tonight was the deadline, rather than tomorrow...

Maybe this is just the way I'm wired. When cramming for a trial, I come up with some of my best stuff at 10 or 11 the night before. On the rare occasions when I actually start writing a docketing statement (like a statement of issues for the Appeals Court) prior to the day before it is due, I can't get myself to focus on it. I find myself staring into space or not having a clue how to begin. Maybe I was just built to do everything at the last possible moment. (Although I wouldn't recommend it for paying one's power bill. It tends to result in a dark house and extra fees.) And anyway, what's so wrong with procrastination? As long as the thing gets done eventually...