Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Digging Deeper Into The Chocolate Box

Frustration is endemic to the practice of law. It simply is. I have been practicing my trade (I would call it a 'craft' but the combination of what it is and the manner in which I do it would merely elicit another cease and desist letter from the Einstein Estate vis-a-vis my continuing abuse of the theory of relativity) for close to two decades now and I do not think that that particular element of it has lessened or abated at all. If anything it seems to have grown greater over the years.

That might have more to do with the fact that the passage of time has brought with it the gift of experience - a gift presumably visited not merely upon me but upon each and every one of us the longer we toil at a particular endeavor. The gift of experience carries with it the burden of recognition. As we gain more experience doing something we also recognize more clearly when someone is stroking us or blowing us off than we likely did way back when. There is a reason, after all, that experience is not bliss but ignorance is.

I never cease to be amazed by how effortlessly people who seem to be otherwise intelligent, capable individuals disregard, ignore and otherwise flush the advice of their counsel. Doctors have no idea how easy they have it as opposed to those of us who have J.D. as opposed to M.D. affixed to our names. A person choosing to tell his/her doctor to stick a diagnosis or a prognosis in a pipe and smoke it is considered to be such an event that it has its own name/description. When it occurs, it is said that, "The patient sought a second opinion."

In the law it happens so frequently that no pomp or circumstance is attendant to it. Your client asks you a question. You answer that question to the best of your ability and ultimately offer your client a considered opinion, which might not be precisely what your client wants to hear. Time passes and your client finally responds to your opinion by telling you that after having talked to "other people" (maybe another lawyer, maybe some equally clueless wonk in the adjoining office, maybe the stuffed potato knish guy - try to track down the guy who used to be right outside One Police Plaza in Lower Manhattan), he/she has decided to ignore everything you recommended and do something else completely.

Thanks for playing our game now here's your hat and what's your hurry. Remarkable. Simply remarkable. In my experience, too many to count are the clients who love their lawyers when the lawyer is the bluebird of happiness - source of a continuous flow of good news. Conversely too few to count are the clients who love their lawyer when he or she is the perceived harbinger of doom, which more often than not is not even a reasonable facsimile of "doom" but nevertheless something that the client does not want to hear.

Parenthood is a good complement to the practice of law because much in the same way that a parent cannot easily persuade a child to stop holding his or her breath when that child is in mid-tantrum it is nigh on to impossible to convince a true believer of the error of his ways. A lot of time is spent putting out fires before they blaze too long - of silencing the ringing bells before they have rung for too long to ever be unrung.

In the not-quite-immortal (but perhaps they should be) words of Dwayne F. Schneider, "Always remember and please never forget" that there is a fine line between determination and obstinacy and that doing the same thing over and over and hoping for a different result might be entertaining as hell but it is nevertheless insane. Life may be a box of chocolates but sometimes even we know what we are going to get and that it is going to make us sick, we still pop it in our mouths.

At the end of the day, stupid is as stupid does. Same as it was yesterday. Same as it will be tomorrow.

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