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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.•

__________

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. He called our nation a nation of cowards because we didn't want to talk about race. That was a cheap shot coming from the top cop. The man who decides who gets the federal government indicts. Wow. Not a gentleman if that is the measure. More importantly, this insult delivered as we all understand, to white people-- without him or anybody needing to explain that is precisely what he meant-- but this is an insult to timid white persons who fear the government and don't want to say anything about race for fear of being accused a racist. With all the legal heat that can come down on somebody if they say something which can be construed by a prosecutor like Mr Holder as racist, is it any wonder white people-- that's who he meant obviously-- is there any surprise that white people don't want to talk about race? And as lawyers we have even less freedom lest our remarks be considered violations of the rules. Mr Holder also demonstrated his bias by publically visiting with the family of the young man who was killed by a police offering in the line of duty, which was a very strong indicator of bias agains the offer who is under investigation, and was a failure to lead properly by letting his investigators do their job without him predetermining the proper outcome. He also has potentially biased the jury pool. All in all this worsens race relations by feeding into the perception shared by whites as well as blacks that justice will not be impartial. I will say this much, I do not blame Obama for all of HOlder's missteps. Obama has done a lot of things to stay above the fray and try and be a leader for all Americans. Maybe he should have reigned Holder in some but Obama's got his hands full with other problelms. Oh did I mention HOlder is a bank crony who will probably get a job in a silkstocking law firm working for millions of bucks a year defending bankers whom he didn't have the integrity or courage to hold to account for their acts of fraud on the United States, other financial institutions, and the people. His tenure will be regarded by history as a failure of leadership at one of the most important jobs in our nation. Finally and most importantly besides him insulting the public and letting off the big financial cheats, he has been at the forefront of over-prosecuting the secrecy laws to punish whistleblowers and chill free speech. What has Holder done to vindicate the rights of privacy of the American public against the illegal snooping of the NSA? He could have charged NSA personnel with violations of law for their warrantless wiretapping which has been done millions of times and instead he did not persecute a single soul. That is a defalcation of historical proportions and it signals to the public that the government DOJ under him was not willing to do a damn thing to protect the public against the rapid growth of the illegal surveillance state. Who else could have done this? Nobody. And for that omission Obama deserves the blame too. Here were are sliding into a police state and Eric Holder made it go all the faster.

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