October 20th, 2017

Lawyers (and other advocates) Need A Hobby

The Paine to Pain race logo

All too often in life, those who are professional advocates get so wrapped up in their little piece of the world that they fail to see the bigger picture. This happens with lawyers, of course, but likewise with any political advocacy group you find.

Go to Twitter, for example, and you’ll see no shortage of people obsessed about one thing, and one thing only (and that one thing is, all too often, politics).

But if you want to be effective, you have to actually leave that advocacy behind and engage your heart and mind in a completely unrelated hobby. Only then can you step outside of your work and even attempt to view it objectively.

If you are advocating, then you need that objectivity, because the people you’re trying to convince are not those that already drank your flavor of Kool Aide. The advocacy is geared toward are those that don’t have an opinion, or are open to being persuaded because they are not all-consumed with confirmation bias.

For me, as regular readers know, that  hobby is putting on the Paine to Pain half marathon trail race each year that now attracts about 700 athletes from 15 states. We get about 200 volunteers to help. This is not a small undertaking on my part.

But, believe it or not, I think this makes me a better lawyer. While it is time spent away from writing briefs and “being productive” in the office, it helps to give me perspective.

Having raced over these trails, and seen so many others do it including some with disabilities, I’m more rounded as a person. Not because it’s running, but because it is something other than lawyering.

It also makes me a better project manager, which is a large part of being a trial lawyer if you are the one with the burden of proof. If you don’t line all your ducks up in a row and prepare, prepare, prepare, then you won’t succeed, regardless of whether the “event” is a trial or a conference you are directing.

It doesn’t really matter what your passion is outside of your area of advocacy. It could be sports, music or your local church/synagogue/mosque.  If it happened to also be a community based hobby, as mine is, you will also get the incidental benefit of becoming more well known in your community, which might bring with it unexpected opportunities.

If your advocacy consumes you and you can’t look at the rest of the world objectively, you aren’t going to be a very good advocate. Engaging those outside hobbies are critical to perspective and effective advocacy. And might have additional professional benefits.

 

October 30th, 2015

NYC Marathon and Law (Sometimes)

ASICS ad, 2012 NYC Marathon, photo by my son, then age 10, at end of 2010 marathon

I noted the other day that I had, over the last 9 years, hijacked my blog to talk baseball, even managing to toss some law into the mix. It was my way of celebrating that my Mets were in the World Series.

And today I do the same thing with running because, as it happens, the NYC Marathon is this Sunday, and over the years I’ve also done a slew of running posts, often mixed with law.

This Sunday, if the stars are all properly aligned, I will run the marathon by day in a Mets shirt and then climb to the top of Citi Field at night for game 5 of the World Series. So if you see some guy like that running while waving an orange rally towel, it’s just me trying to have a helluva-sports-kinda-day.

Isn’t that your image of what a lawyer should look like?

Post have ranged from a marathon length Blawg Review back in 2007, to discussions of the assumption of risk doctrine, to the stoopid legalese we often see in waivers, to the circumstances of how I found my face on the side of a bus.

And sometimes, there is no legal angle at all. I just wrote something because I enjoyed writing it. Whether you enjoy reading it is an altogether different factor.

Without further ado, the rest of a round-up of running related posts that have appeared here, some of which actually deal with law:

 

Boston Marathon (Drinking Beer, Kissing Wellesley Women and Abstract Journeys)

Turkewitz in the News…

Trial Tactics and Race Planning

The Long Blue Line (26.2 Miles of It)

New York City Marathon (Some thoughts and photos)–Updated for Zoe Koplowitz

The Boston Marathon (Highway to Hell)

Did Paul Ryan Lie? (About His Marathon Time?) -updated

Legal Implications for Cancelling NYC Marathon? (Updated)

Twelve Miles To Newtown

Boston Marathon Bombing (And the Lives We Lead)

What Does A Smile Mean? (Updated x2)

Running, Lawyering and The Great Stage

Passover and the Boston Marathon Bombing

Boston Marathon, 2015 Edition (Updated!)

 

 

 

 

April 20th, 2015

Boston Marathon, 2015 Edition (Updated!)

2015bostonmarathonToday is the 119th running of the Boston Marathon, one of the truly great road races in the world. While it’s become associated with terrorism in the minds of many due to the bombing two years ago, this is not the way that runners think of it.

The race is, for most of us, a goal and pinnacle. Except for the great elites who will toe the line at Hopkinton this morning, most think of this as a great celebration.  While some get into the race as runners for charity, the achievement for most is simply running fast enough in a prior race to qualify.

I have many friends out there now — as I type they are making their way to the start line and wondering how long the rain will hold off.

And along the route, there are countless parties being readied to celebrate the runners as they go by, for what is a mass event like this other than a great big party?

Is the potential for terrorism in the minds of many? Of course. But they are out there anyway, runners, spectators and volunteers alike.  Those that are out there are not shut-ins preferring to cower. They are the ones celebrating life.

Below are a few pieces I’ve written before about the race (and the bombing). For those who want a peak into the psyche of the runner and what the race is about, here you go:

Boston Marathon (Drinking Beer, Kissing Wellesley Women and Abstract Journeys) – 2009

The Boston Marathon (Highway to Hell) – 2012

Boston Marathon Bombing (And the Lives We Lead) – 2013

Passover and the Boston Marathon Bombing – 2014

——–

Update: Rebekah Gregory DiMartino, who lost a leg in the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing….ran the closing miles of the marathon today to cross the finish line. Video of her crossing the finish is enough to dent even the hardest and most cynical of hearts.

 

April 15th, 2014

Passover and the Boston Marathon Bombing

Exterior, Kings County Supreme Court (Brooklyn) — Photo credit, me.

Once again, a confluence of two seemingly unrelated events. On the one hand, today is the first day of Passover. On the other, it is the one year anniversary of the Boston Marathon bombing.

Passover celebrates breaking away from tyranny and bondage and the establishment of freedom and the rule of law. While celebrated by Jews, we recognize its universal symbolism. So too do others, as we see the Ten Commandments displayed in courthouses around the country as an example of one of the first descriptions of written law.

The bombing, by contrast, represents both anarchy and totalitarianism. Anarchy from the acts of violence themselves, and (to the extent news stories are accurate that this was an act of militant Islamism) the use of that anarchy to promote theocracies where religion reigns supreme and freedom is restricted.

I have a place in my heart for the Boston Marathon, having been privileged to run it in 2009 and again in 2012. This year it is run with a still-fresh wound, despite the brave faces many victims wear.

But this will not be the first time a marathon is run in the wake of a terror attack.

In 2001 the NYC Marathon was run just two months after the World Trade Center fell, and the fires were still burning. As we crested the Verazzano Bridge at the one mile mark of the race’s dramatic start, you could see the hole in the downtown skyline.

There were some that didn’t show up to run that year, concerned over reports in the week before the race that a bridge was the next suspected target. Rumors and fear ruled the day.

But 25,000 did show up. And the streets were teeming with people that day for a massive public event for which adequate protection could not be assured. And the reason for the lack of protection was simple, if you want to live in a free society, you can’t “protect” 26 miles of roadway through the streets of New York.

We knew that back then. People with guns or backpacks with bombs could emerge from the crowd of 2 million at any time. Runners and spectators alike had bulls eyes on their chests. But it was important to be there and to celebrate New York and to say that we would not live our lives in fear. Cowering was not an option.

BostonStrongAnd it will be important again next Monday when the 118th Boston Marathon is run. The crowds will be thick and the runners stoked, with each participant — runners, volunteers and spectator alike — tossing caution to the wind to be there. They know that others will be watching them on this great stage.

The police will try to protect parts of the race course, of course, as they do in New York and all major sporting events. But the reality is that the security is a thin veneer. There is always a way in a free society to wage an attack.

Freedom is like that. It is hard to gain, as recent events show in the Middle East and now Ukraine. In biblical times it took us 40 years of wandering in the desert to get there.

It’s easy to become complacent about freedom and to take it for granted when there is no challenge to it.

But when the challenges to freedom come — and terror attacks are certainly such challenges — it feels good to see people willing to put themselves out there to celebrate it, and thereby protect it. Spectators will, quite literally, be manning the barricades.

Cowering is not an option. #BostonStrong

 

November 12th, 2013

Running, Lawyering and The Great Stage

Collins-Stops-843x1024I’m going to weave together six different stories today, some dealing with running, some with lawyering, but all leading to the same place. Trust me on this, I have a point to make.

We start on October 6th at the finish line of the Paine to Pain Trail Half Marathon, where Matt Collins — a person you’ve never heard of, and in a story that’s never appeared anyplace but a blog —  stopped dead in his tracks just steps from the finish line. And he waited for #2 and #3 to pass him before he walked across the finish line. It seemed that the guy who ultimately won had taken a wrong turn in the woods and was followed by #2. Collins was 3rd at the time, called them back as he took the lead, and then waited at the finish for the other guys to finish ahead of him.

On a very popular running forum, Collins was excoriated by some for not having grabbed first place. But this is not a race with a cash prize; people run for fun, health and personal glory. He didn’t feel like he deserved it as he wasn’t the fastest runner that day, and that was good enough for him. While the stage was rather small given the number of onlookers, a few people appreciated this act of extraordinary sportsmanship.

Move on to story 2 and the NYC Marathon — a vastly bigger stage — and another runner you’ve have never heard of, Mike Cassidy. He’s what we call a “sub-elite.” He’ll blow the socks off you in any regional race, but isn’t Olympic caliber. He’s not the guy who gets the sponsorships. That would be a guy like his hero, Meb Keflezighi  – 2004 Olympic silver medalist and 2009 winner of the NYC Marathon.

Meb — he’s always just Meb — was having an off day due to a series of injuries.  And when elite athletes have an off day they usually just drop out so that they can come back sooner in another race and not risk further injury. But Meb kept going.  And Cassidy caught up to his hero three miles before the dramatic Central Park finish.

Cassidy-KeflezighiR-NYCmar13Look at the picture to your left. As Cassidy recounts in extraordinary race report:

This is the type of moment you only dream about. The scene had played out in my mind countless times before: me, having the race of my life, gracefully passing Meb in Central Park en route to a stunning victory. It’s one of those wild fantasies that get you through the solitary 7 am 10 milers.

As I eased up on his shoulder, I looked over and said, “Let’s go Meb.”

He responded, promptly picking up his pace and we entered Central Park at 90th Street, shoulder to shoulder. The next three miles were the most surreal I have ever experienced.  “Let’s finish this together,” he said.

In recounting the experience of running with Meb through the closing miles, jammed with screaming fans, he said:

It was like getting to play basketball with Michael Jordan. Only it was Game 7 of the NBA Finals and he had just passed me the ball.

Why did Meb keep going?  Once more from Cassidy’s amazing write-up:

It was readily apparent that all the stories I’d heard about Meb’s remarkable attitude were true.

As we entered Central Park at Columbus Circle, I turned to Meb and told him as much. “It’s an honor to run with you,” I said.

His response is something I’ll never forget.

“No,” he said. “Today is not about us. It’s about representing New York. It’s about representing Boston. It’s about representing the USA and doing something positive for our sport. We will finish this race holding hands.”

Meb knew. People were watching.

Now story 3, we turn to lawyering and back to the smaller stage. Last week I wrote about the death of the anonymous Editor of Blawg Review, who everyone knew simply as Ed. Ed. worked behind the scenes. He was known, at least in this digital incarnation, only to a group of law bloggers and some of their readers. But he influenced us and how we wrote, and created a forum in which to celebrate quality, and not the marketing pablum that some try to pass off as blogging. Ed. was respected for what he was doing in his Blawg Review project, as is evident from all the stories posthumously written about him. People were watching.

Now story 4: I wrote in unflattering terms the other day about the tactics a lawyer used when suing Red Bull for $85M, in a case dealing with the death of someone that drank the stuff while playing basketball. I was less than charmed about his decision to place a monetary amount in the complaint when that tactic is not permitted in New York. The headlines all dealt with the money, instead of dealing with the safety of the product. And when we talk about newspaper headlines, we are most assuredly back on the big stage. People were watching.

Child's eyesStory 5: It came across social media like so many other viral videos do, this one dealing with how children reacted to same-sex marriage, by having them watch various same-sex marriage proposals. Everyone wanted to see how kids react. It’s been viewed, so far, over seven million times.

But if you thought about it, it wasn’t really about the kids. It was about the parents, because kids mostly just mirror what the parental units do and say. If kids are accepting, you can bet the parents are also. If a kid is a raging bigot — regardless of whether it’s about sexual orientation, race or religion — you can place a pretty good bet where it came from. The stage inside your home is as small as it gets. But the kids are watching.

Story 6: I tried a case in September, and every so often a lawyer or two would filter in and out of the courtroom on unrelated business. Last week I got a call from one of them who’d seen one particular cross-exam, and he wanted a copy of the transcript to use to teach a class of students. An audience of one just grew. Someone was watching, other than those required to do so.

The Point: We don’t always know how big our audience is: It may be a few people standing around a finish line, or jammed sidewalks and national television for the  NYC Marathon, or newspaper readers or “just” our kids. But people are always watching and listening (and I don’t just mean the NSA — “the only part of government that actually listens“).

When I select juries, I know that whatever opinions the 30 people sitting in the room  are going to form about lawyers will be directly impacted by the few things they hear from us. In doing so, I am always confronted by the entrenched attitudes some folks have because of the conduct of lawyers and news stories that came before.

We cannot view our conduct in isolation as it oft times impacts others.

This is something to think about with each bit of marketing a lawyer does, with every interaction with a client or potential client, and any interaction with the press. People are watching. And listening. And it matters.