Tuesday, June 25, 2013

The Dues of Diligence

The leading rule for the lawyer, as for the
man of every other calling is diligence.
Leave nothing for tomorrow
which can be done today.

- Abraham Lincoln

I had an interesting conversation Friday night while Margaret and I were at a little get-together hosted by my high school Alma mater's Alumni Association.   I suppose that it might have risen to the level of being very interesting had I ever learned the name of the young man with whom I was having it.  He was essentially dropped on my conversational doorstep by another alumni, Max, in the apparent expectation that I (twenty years deep into a career that occasionally irritates the shit out of me) would be able to impart some words of wisdom upon him (on the eve of beginning his first year of law school and spending this summer interning for one of New Jersey's Top 20 Firms).  There is no hat that fits my over-sized head more poorly than that of the Sage.  Believe me when I tell you that Suzanne and Rob have achieved the success each has in significant part because they learned very early to disregard most (if not all) of the advice I attempted to impart to them.

He took the road more travelled (and the one I eschewed completely) of going directly from the completion of his undergraduate studies to law school.  I did not ask him his age but I presume he is not more than twenty-two or twenty-three years old.  He certainly looked no older than that.  His eyes were the combination of eager and anxiety-riddled that one expects to see in one so young who has clearly already spent a bit of time getting indoctrinated into the "You Must Do Things This Way to Succeed" nonsense imparted to him by some starched, white-collar poser whose place in his own firm is (in all likelihood) not as close to the rarefied air of the ladder's top rung as he clearly has represented it to be to this youngster. 

His speech was chock full of catch phrases that had been imparted to him during his indoctrnation-to-date at "Big Firm NJ".  The type of cliched tripe someone feeds someone else when he cannot actually be bothered to offer him anything of value.  He also struck me though as being not just a bright young man but well-intentioned:  looking for a little kernel of hope amid a sea of bullshit. 

I told him the only thing of any value I probably have ever shared with either of my two:  you cannot let someone else chart the course you are going to take - and make - in this world.  Whether it is the practice of law, the building of buildings, the mowing of lawns or the brewing of coffee, whatever it is you do to earn your daily bread it should be something for which you have a passion.  Work is hard enough without going through the motions day after day.  And the only person who knows whether the choice you have made is the right choice for you is you.  It is most certainly not some Ivy League dilettante who has likely been tasked the responsibility of dispensing faux advice to you all summer as part of his/her own compensation packages and who gives less than half a rat's ass about you. 

I also told him to make sure that whatever he does in the law - presuming the law becomes the career path he chooses to blaze - to make sure he lives a balanced life.  Work is work.  It is what it is.  In the law - at least in the civil justice system where I earn my living - no one has yet cured cancer.  No one has yet ended starvation.  There are deadlines for getting things completed to be sure.  But as long as one takes Mr. Lincoln's lesson to heart, they shall be met.  

Take a look upward at the top of today's silliness at the Railsplitter's words one more time.  Notice what word is absent from that nugget of Lincolnian wisdom?  "Work".  It appears not at all.  Not once.  Why not?  Perhaps because Lincoln's advice to lawyers was not career advice but, rather, life advice. 

After all, all of us shall run out of tomorrows.  But we shall all run out of todays first.  Embrace them as you encounter them.  Do all you can.  Do it every day.  The bullshit shall take care of itself. 


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