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DTCI: take the time to appreciate life's moments

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DTCI-Bryant-micheleWhat comes to mind when we think of time? Billable time, time management, time spent, time out, time flies, time stopped, a matter of time, on-time arrival, time to go … . According to Wikipedia, “Time is a dimension in which events can be ordered from the past through the present into the future.”

I cannot imagine any professionals more obsessed with time than lawyers. While a great debate still rages as to whether the billable hour is dead, the fact remains that many lawyers continue to measure services to clients by a unit of time: the billable hour. Even for lawyers not bound by a billable hour, there is always another deadline to meet or another call to make or another client to please.

Lawyers try to cope by “managing” their time. Ha! Ha! Are we not simply trying to manage the unmanageable? Some may be better than others at this attempt, but in reality, time is the great equalizer. It cannot be controlled no matter how hard we try. It does no good to ask for an extension. Twenty-four hours in a day is all we have, and all we will ever have. There always seems to be more to do.

While we all have equal hours in a day, we do not have equal days in a lifetime. Although lawyers may try to control all events and people around them, we are powerless to determine the most essential aspect of our existence. Tomorrow is not guaranteed, no matter how healthy, wealthy, or wise we may (or may not) be. In fact, we are all dying from the moment we are born. We just do not know exactly when the process will be completed.

Because lawyers view themselves as achievers and problem solvers, we find this lack of control over the big picture to be rather annoying. While some may choose to ignore it and some may try to fight it, perhaps the best approach is to just accept that not everything in life needs to be managed or measured. Lessons from others can be insightful.

I spent the last week with more than a hundred judges, lawyers, and others from across the country and Canada at the American Bar Association Commission on Lawyer Assistance Programs’ annual conference. From the many judges and lawyers in recovery from various forms of addiction, I learned a new measure of a day. For them, a day is not measured only in a billable hour or a brief written or a dozen emails exchanged. For them, the passing of a day is a gift of another 24 hours in which they have lived the miracle of recovery. This alone is a gift for which they are grateful. The courage they demonstrate in redefining each day and in acknowledging there are things over which they are powerless is inspiring.

While attending the CoLAP conference, I found myself doing something I never seem to find the time to do: reading a book that has nothing to do with the practice of law. Mitch Albom’s most recent book, “The Time Keeper,” was worth the couple of hours I spent. The main character, Dor, is the first man on earth to count the hours and is punished for trying to measure God’s greatest gift. His punishment? Being confined in a sort of purgatory listening to the cries from the people below begging for more time. You will have to read the book to find out how Father Time escapes this captivity. However, as a hint, it has something to do with convincing a couple of earthlings to reconsider how they spend their hours and how truly precious is the gift of each day.

Lawyers tend to have a tougher time appreciating the moments. A good many books have been written on why this might be the case. The intensity, focus and drive that make for a good lawyer can also make for a one-dimensional existence. While Dor had the power to stop time, we do not. Before the hourglass is empty, let’s all make it a point to pause every now and again to laugh a little, smell the roses, or whatever you do to make each day special.•

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Bryant is a partner in the Evansville office of Bamberger, Foreman, Oswald & Hahn and is a member of the DTCI board of directors. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author.

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  1. So that none are misinformed by my posting wihtout a non de plume here, please allow me to state that I am NOT an Indiana licensed attorney, although I am an Indiana resident approved to practice law and represent clients in Indiana's fed court of Nth Dist and before the 7th circuit. I remain licensed in KS, since 1996, no discipline. This must be clarified since the IN court records will reveal that I did sit for and pass the Indiana bar last February. Yet be not confused by the fact that I was so allowed to be tested .... I am not, to be clear in the service of my duty to be absolutely candid about this, I AM NOT a member of the Indiana bar, and might never be so licensed given my unrepented from errors of thought documented in this opinion, at fn2, which likely supports Mr Smith's initial post in this thread: http://caselaw.findlaw.com/us-7th-circuit/1592921.html

  2. When I served the State of Kansas as Deputy AG over Consumer Protection & Antitrust for four years, supervising 20 special agents and assistant attorneys general (back before the IBLE denied me the right to practice law in Indiana for not having the right stuff and pretty much crushed my legal career) we had a saying around the office: Resist the lure of the ring!!! It was a take off on Tolkiem, the idea that absolute power (I signed investigative subpoenas as a judge would in many other contexts, no need to show probable cause)could corrupt absolutely. We feared that we would overreach constitutional limits if not reminded, over and over, to be mindful to not do so. Our approach in so challenging one another was Madisonian, as the following quotes from the Father of our Constitution reveal: The essence of Government is power; and power, lodged as it must be in human hands, will ever be liable to abuse. We are right to take alarm at the first experiment upon our liberties. I believe there are more instances of the abridgement of freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments by those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations. Liberty may be endangered by the abuse of liberty, but also by the abuse of power. All men having power ought to be mistrusted. -- James Madison, Federalist Papers and other sources: http://www.constitution.org/jm/jm_quotes.htm RESIST THE LURE OF THE RING ALL YE WITH POLITICAL OR JUDICIAL POWER!

  3. My dear Mr Smith, I respect your opinions and much enjoy your posts here. We do differ on our view of the benefits and viability of the American Experiment in Ordered Liberty. While I do agree that it could be better, and that your points in criticism are well taken, Utopia does indeed mean nowhere. I think Madison, Jefferson, Adams and company got it about as good as it gets in a fallen post-Enlightenment social order. That said, a constitution only protects the citizens if it is followed. We currently have a bevy of public officials and judicial agents who believe that their subjectivism, their personal ideology, their elitist fears and concerns and cause celebs trump the constitutions of our forefathers. This is most troubling. More to follow in the next post on that subject.

  4. Yep I am not Bryan Brown. Bryan you appear to be a bigger believer in the Constitution than I am. Were I still a big believer then I might be using my real name like you. Personally, I am no longer a fan of secularism. I favor the confessional state. In religious mattes, it seems to me that social diversity is chaos and conflict, while uniformity is order and peace.... secularism has been imposed by America on other nations now by force and that has not exactly worked out very well.... I think the American historical experiment with disestablishmentarianism is withering on the vine before our eyes..... Since I do not know if that is OK for an officially licensed lawyer to say, I keep the nom de plume.

  5. I am compelled to announce that I am not posting under any Smith monikers here. That said, the post below does have a certain ring to it that sounds familiar to me: http://www.catholicnewworld.com/cnwonline/2014/0907/cardinal.aspx

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