Monday, June 5, 2017

The Best Advice For Practicing Lawyers There Is.

I don't often credit movies about lawyers much, but here's an exception that's truly noteworthy.  Its a scene from A Civil Action:
If I were you I'd make it a point in that lunch hour I'd find a place that's quiet and peaceful and I'd be away from all the noisiness and insanity, have a sandwich read a magazine maybe listen on a radio to a game at Fenway if it was playing at the time and I'd make sure everyone knew that I didn't want to be disturbed in that hour of solitude because that would be my time my own private time which no one if they had any sense of any self-preservation at all would dare interrupt if I were you.
Jerome Facher, from A Civil Action.

Better advice could not be had.

For a long time, and partially due to advice from my own father, I've tried to get out of the office at noon.  I usually try to go home.  On some occasions I'll just leave the office and walk around.  I don't go to lunch with other lawyers, usually, as I don't eat much lunch anyhow (I'm a small person and if I ate a restaurant sized lunch every day I'd be as big as a whale) , or even any lunch, and I don't want to sit around and talk about the law or cases on my one hour in the middle of the day.  Usually when I go out the door at noon the receptionist tells me "have a good lunch!" or when I come back in she asks "did you have a good lunch?".  I always reply "yep" even though I've often had no lunch.  Just getting "away from all the noisiness and insanity" is good enough.

But it's getting harder and harder to do.

Cell phones have intruded on this massively. I may simply start leaving my phone in my desk.  If I take it there's no guaranty that I won't get a work call.

Who'd call, you ask?

Well, a variety  of people. Sometimes its an individual client.  Corporate and carrier clients rarely will call during noon. . . .almost never, in fact.  Chances are that the people who work in those roles would like an hour break as much as anyone else.  Individual clients will do it fairly frequently, however.  They are the ones most likely not to understand the law in the first place and can be the most nervous about it.  Noon can be when they call as that's when they have a free hour.  That's fine, but the problem is that this misunderstands your role as a human being.  It does it, I'd note, in a flattering manner. The assumption by such a caller is that you are so much a part of your occupation that you are your occupation.

In that situation the caller doesn't imagine that the morning was draining, that you worked on difficult problems and maybe with difficult people of one kind or another and now that you have a "free" hour in the middle of the day you might just want to " have a sandwich read a magazine maybe listen on a radio to a game at Fenway if it was playing at the time".  No, the caller imagines that such thoughts never occur to you and you'll give up that time to work on their problem and assure them that everything is going to be okay. 

Sometimes in recent years I've found that its other lawyers that do this.  Not all by any means.  A tiny minority. But, for example, I have had cases against a certain exuberant lawyer that calls at odd times, including the lunch hour, on my cell phone repeatedly.  Or after hours.  Indeed, when he calls during office hours, he calls on my cell phone.  I think he truly is one of those people for whom taking a break doesn't exist for one reason or another, and he thinks everyone in the profession does the same thing. 

Sometimes its just a time zone thing, and I do get that, of course, and will make exceptions for it.

I feel almost bad mentioning this.  I know that people who call at 12:15 or who drop by the front door literally as I'm going out don't mean to be intrusive.  But being a lawyer, or at least a litigator, is a very wearing job and unless a person is of a truly extraordinary makeup, they may want a break at noon as much as anyone else.  A lot of days a person has been up to their eyes in blood and gore and panic and hate by 12:00.  Running through the noon hour and never getting out of it isn't really all that good of an idea.  The line above, albeit from a movie, is good advice.  Indeed, the best advice about practicing law I've ever seen.

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