Vol. 28, No. 1
CBA President's Message to Members
Some New Year's Wishes
by Ben S. Aisenberg
Something odd happened the other day.
In the middle of all the metallic yammering that goes on, the phones, the faxes, the e-mails, the beeps and buzzes of modern office life, everything stopped. The power went off. My phone connection with opposing counsel went dead. The computer went blank. The entire office went silent.
Nobody did anything. Nobody yelled down the hall asking what’s happening. Maybe it was my imagination, but I sensed everyone took a deep breath, savored the peace, and were happy not to be going at a breakneck pace for a few moments.
Too soon, whatever caused this to happen reversed itself, opposing counsel called back, and everything began whirring again.
But just for a moment, it was an old-fashioned gift to everyone in the office.
If I had the power to give ten gifts to Colorado attorneys, what would I give? Here are my wishes for all of us.
Ten Wishes for Colorado Attorneys
Have you forgotten what it sounds like? Gotta get the morning news on radio or TV, mix up a yogurt drink (or Metamucil), turn on the humidifier, start the car, listen to the traffic report. I live in an urban area and I can hear sirens and dogs and people talking. When I go up to the mountains, especially at night, sometimes I hear nothing. It’s blessedly peaceful. It’s refreshing. I wish you all moments like this.
2. The Ability to Listen
I’d say if you’re a lawyer, you talk too much. I talk too much. In my mind, I’m halfway through the thought I’m going to express next before the other person has finished his or hers. We interrupt, we make our point, we congratulate ourselves on our witty stories and we move on. I know a lawyer who, when you meet him, looks you in the eye and asks, "How are you?" Then he listens. He really listens. He’s interested. You’re thrown off at first, wondering what his angle is. Then you warm to it, knowing the rareness of his ability to listen and hear. You feel cared for. I like him a lot.
Appreciation is a much-underrated quality that can get us through some rough waters. Please. Thank you. That was kind of you. I appreciate that. I appreciate you. When someone is doing everything he can to ruffle you, try seizing the higher ground; lay on some courtesy and see what happens. You will probably startle everyone. That’s a good start. When others do something nice, it’s so easy to let them know how much you appreciate the things they do for you, for the profession, and for the community. We all need to be stroked at times. We need to let others know that their efforts have not gone unrewarded.
As we get involved in projects or issues, it is easy to become myopic and have tunnel vision. Perspective is the ability to remove ourselves from the frame of reference we are in and see things as they really are. As an example, the case I didn’t give myself much chance of winning at the outset invariably becomes better as I go along, to the extent that, prior to trial, I just don’t see how I can lose. It is true that on some occasions this may be justified, but in many others it is not. We all need a reality check at some point, not only in our daily practices, but in our lives in general.
5. A Sense of Humor
As lawyers, we consider ourselves the center of the universe. Our cases, our clients, and our causes make the world go around. When challenged, we become defensive. Are we really that serious? Is there not humor in all but the most serious aspects of life? We all need the ability to laugh, not only at situations, but at ourselves. When I think about it, I do some darn funny things, many of which are not intentional. Hey, I’m a pretty funny guy. Aren’t you?
Although we may have a lucrative practice and wonderful legal skills, when we come right down to it, our reputation is the most important thing we will ever have. Fame is fleeting, but integrity is enduring. It is our signature. To one’s own self be true; then you can’t be false to anyone.
7. Good Friends
About ten years ago, I invited four law school classmates and their spouses to Aspen, where I share a home. I went to high school and law school with two of them. We practice in different states from Connecticut to New York to Florida to California. We hadn’t seen much of each other over the years. What a wonderful way to renew old friendships and to reminisce about some things that happened and some things that probably didn’t. Actually, some of the things I think I remember the best, probably never happened. We have followed up these get togethers once or twice a year at places ranging from Hiltonhead, South Carolina, to Vancouver, British Columbia. I am blessed to have such good friends. I wish you many such friendships.
8. A Winning Lottery Ticket
No–you all can’t have one, but maybe one of you will be the fortunate one. If you were, I am sure you would do a lot more traveling, but would you give up the practice of law? I hope some of you would not, but that you would take time to smell the roses. Come to think of it, I wish we all could take the time to smell the roses. I wish you enough financial success to buy yourself the gift of time.
9. A Good Secretary
I, like many of us, possess a wild imagination. To have a wild imagination you must be disorganized. My desk looks like the aftermath of Hurricane Georges, with everything loose in my files. Without that office mate to see me through, I would be a pen pal of my malpractice carrier. I’m sure if I were aware of all the mistakes I never even hear about, I would be looking for a different profession. I wish you all a secretary like Liz.
10. A Cold Brew or a Bottle of Good Red Wine
Need I say more?
These gifts I wish for all of us. May the New Year bring us all health, happiness, and wisdom.
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