At the 30th Anniversary of The Vantage Group, North Haven, Connecticut, Executive Director Rick Pittman honored the legacy of "Mother Mary."
Before she retired, that employee leveraged her unique empathy to accomplish anything and everything. That ranged from keeping the trains running on time to assuring that the residents of the group homes who could work found it and a way to get to it daily. The Vantage Group provides a loving, safe community environment for adults with a disability.
How the legal sector can use some Mother Marys - or Chief Compassion Officers (CCO)!
The direct impacts and unintended consequences of an industry in transition could be made less of soul-killers. The ideal scenario would be for all participants, ranging from equity partners to law students, to find joy and satisfaction in taking on new kinds of challenges.
Currently, they are conditioned to experience things that don't seem to go their way as somehow their fault. Senior associates who don't make partner often spend the rest of their lives replaying their supposed wrong moves. That preoccupation constrains their ability to get traction on another career path.
Come on, that's so unnecessary. It doesn't take much understanding of human beings and emotional warmth to change the course of a life or a career. Money is often irrelevant. The Vantage Group, like many non-profits, operates on a limited budget.
Think about it. The CCOs can parachute into the law firm when associates get that tap on the shoulder or the bar association when test-takers fail. They listen with their hearts. They position the conversation to the okay-what's-next phase. They remain a palpable presence in the lives of those in transition.
This isn't new, of course. When the market for Humanities college professors tanked in the 1970s, a Mother Mary appeared. It was the late Walter Clark at the University of Michigan. He mostly listened. We took walks. Then he made a phone call. The transition to that non-academic job was probably hard. But I didn't experience it that way because a human being was on the scene.
Not only the legal sector but all organizations have to ditch the assumption that it's all-business. That model of the cold invisible hand is actually downright cartoonish. Always has been. Some clever folks should stage a skit about that at the next annual meeting of the American Bar Association.
To become a brandname in most white-collar professions, at least in the second decade of the 21st century, you have to be totally consumed. Work/life balance, forget it.
Contrary to the healthy-lifestyle evangelists, no-life-outside-work isn't the end of the world. At least, not until the professional's ability to control that is lost.
Then it can be the end of the world, as Quentin Fottrell reports in the article "Why more white-collar workers are killing themselves, literally. Here is that article.
Creating one's whole identity based on work can be especially perilous in these turbulent times. Your company merges. You become part of the reduction-in-force. The law firm didn't get that big piece of litigation. The hunt is on to unload partners. The second-year associate receives that tap on the shoulder. The second-year law student isn't chosen as a summer.
The blow is even more difficult to absorb because there is usually no network of trusted supporters. There are only allies. And they tend to distance themselves at the first sign of irreversible trouble.
The simple answer might be to develop an interest outside work. It could be a hobby or a volunteer activity. On the personal level, it could be investing time in a relationship with a significant other. That addition can save one's life.
"The lawyer [Shannon Liss-Riordan] suing Uber and Lyft, seeking to force the on-demand app companies to classify their drivers as full-time employees, has filed similar complaints against Shyp, Washio and Postmates this week in San Francisco." - Patricia Chu, San Francisco Business Times, July 1, 2015. Here is the article.
Lawyer Shannon Liss-Riodran, who is Boston-based, has been the lead lawyer in lawsuits against Uber and Lyft. If successful in other lawsuits, she could singlehandedly wipe up the current competitive advantage in the business model of companies which primarily operate through contract employees.
Classifying the majority of the workforce as "employees" is an expensive undertaking. Also, it blows up a lot of the flexibility associates with just-in-time manpower. Terminating employees entails compliance with labor laws.
Capturing every bit of financial, emotional and spiritual woe related to lawyer unemployment/underemployment has evolved into guaranteed clickbait. One of the most recent postings in that niche is Paul Campos' article on the lousy compensation generated by a solo practice.
An unintended side effect of the media coverage is that distressed lawyers, still in shock by the changes in the legal marketplace, become deer in that media spotlight. They can't stop staring. Consequently, they are unable to take the kind of action which could lead to success in another career path.
The default has become to frame themselves as victims of a cruel shift in demand/supply. That identity could doom them to harden into all-time losers. Already, some have labeled them as The Lost Generation.
If they looked away from The Horror, they would get it that there is no payoff in taking refuge in the pile-on of details of victimhood. For example, they might seek out interim help in a support group for those who are confused.
Many of those groups, such as Al-Anon, help with exiting the victimhood loop. They replace that mental model with, "Hey, you survived all that. Congratulations. Now, let's see what's next."
A displaced Baby Boomer lawyer in Eastern Connecticut has allowed herself to go around and around in the loop of self pity about no one valuing her experience and bias against the aging professional. Of course, she can't land decent-paying white-collar assignments. Forget the whole job thing. An exit strategy would be self-talk such as, "I got this far. It wasn't easy. I don't expect The Next to be easy either. But, I am a proven survivor."
An Al-Anon meme is: You can position yourself as Poor Me or you can rebrand as I'm a tough cookie who made it through all that.
The content of legal matters can be ugly business.
Emotions can generate catastrophes. That's exactly what happened in the fictional world of "The Good Wife." Law partner Will Gardner was gunned down and murdered in the courtroom by the party he was defending.
A version of that played out in real life at a law firm in Mississippi. Attorney W. Ellis Pittman had just finished deposing Recardo Frazier, who was represented by attorney Bill Luckett. Pittman was suing Frazier for alleged subpar work done on his own residence.
What happened next was that Frazier, who later turned himself in to law enforcement, was charged with murder. As Staci Zaretsky reports in Abovethelaw.com, Pittman was shot in the stomach. He died before he could be airlifted for medical care for that trauma.
It's no surprise that routine procedure in many courtrooms is to have armed security personnel posted just before a verdict is announced. In "Pao v. Kleiner," plaintiff Ellen Pao seemed like a cool customer when the jury verdict went against her on all counts. That's supposed to be how the civility code is to play out. But, decorum is an artificial construction put together by some influential thought leaders.
"Investigators indicted Uber's two top executives [Thibaud Simphal, Pierre-Dimitri Gore-Cody] in Paris on a raft of charges, including enabling illegal taxi services, that could bring fines and jail time. After holding them overnight, prosecutors set a trial date for late September, lightning speed in a country where suspects can remain under formal investigation for years." - Sam Schechner, The Wall Street Journal, June 30, 2015. Here is the article.
Both French law enforcement and French taxi drivers are playing it very tough with Uber. In addition to the indictments, there had been violent protests in the streets against the ride-share company. It could be in France that Uber's cool is shaken. Currently it remains defiant in France - and in most locations around the world.
If Uber blinks in France, other nations might step up their legal and populist attacks. But, Uber might respond by simply laying low in France for a while and then returning when it perceives things have cooled down.
Uber might be the most formidable "enemy" traditional institutions, ranging from legal systems to the old-line taxi industry, have confronted in a long time.
" In the latest issue of Georgetown Law Journal, Judge Alex Kozinski of the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals turns a critical gaze toward America's criminal justice system ... one of the major themes is prosecutorial advantage, both in federal and state courtrooms." - Jacob Gershman, "Judge Kozinski: Time to Rein in Prosecutors," in The Wall Street Journal, June 30, 2015. Here is the WSJ article. There is a link to the Judge's article provided by WSJ.
In pop culture, thanks to television programming such as "Law and Order" and "Criminal Minds," the good guys are the law enforcers. That has been reinforced by the real-life manhunt for lowlife cons the late Richard Matt and David Sweat.
So, it's no surprise prosecutors seem to have the upper hand in criminal matters. It's human that they might take advantage of that in presenting their cases in court and negotiating plea bargains. Perhaps Judge Kozinski's article can make everyone in the loop, ranging from prosecutors themselves to juries to defendants, more aware of this tendency.
What we do know is that his polemic will be widely read. One reason is his prestige. Another is his colorful style. For example, he observes that any skilled prosecutor can lead a grand jury to indict a ham sandwich. That opining could enter the slang in the legal sector, as in "That indictment was nothing but a ham sandwich."
Time will tell how much reform gets under way in what has been labeled "prosecutorial abuse." Eventually, more ham sandwiches might experience real justice.