I realize that my most recent posts have departed from my usual offering of practical advice regarding plaintiff trial practice. This post is equally lacking in practical application to trial, but I think worth considering. I’ve been thinking about what are the fundamental qualities of a great trial lawyer and it seems to me that it always starts with who we are, what we believe and what we think. Everything else are learned attributes or techniques. The most important thing we need to do is to know ourselves. That was the teaching of Plato. His pupil Socrates said “the unexamined life is not worth living.” Shakespeare has Polonius giving advice to his son “This above all: to thine own self be true, and it must follow, as the night the day, Thou canst not then be false to any man.” Learning who we really our is fundamental to personal improvement

I also think we should consider some historical ideas about living our lives which impact us as advocates for the harmed and those in need of representation.

For example, Ralph Waldo Emerson, wrote an essay, “Compensation” in which he said each person is compensated in like manner for that which he or she has contributed.  This “law of compensation is also called “the law of cause and effect” because he argued that the entire system of the world is represented in every particle of its parts. Every excess causes a defect and every defect an excess. “For everything you have missed, you have gained something else and for everything you gain, you lose something.”

For Emerson “The dice of God are always loaded. The world looks like a multiplication table or a mathematical equation, which turn it how you will, balances itself.” He believed cause and effect cannot be severed. That meant, he said, “You cannot do wrong without suffering wrong.” On the other hand, love and you shall be loved.” For Emerson give and you shall be given.  Wrong others and you shall receive the same.

Emerson’s law of compensation was that you can never be compensated in the long term for more that you contribute. If you want to increase your compensation, you must increase the value of your contribution.

Closely aligned with Emerson’s ideas was the concept of “the law of attraction” based upon positive mental attitude. Napoleon Hill published two books on this idea, the best known of which is “Think and Grow Rich” published in 1937. He believed in the importance of controlling one’s own thoughts in order to achieve success, because positive thoughts attract positive results. More recently Norman Vincent Peale’s book “The Power of Positive Thinking” promoted the same idea and remains a best seller. The most powerful force we have is what we say to ourselves and believe.

In fact there is research involving groups of people which have tested the impact of positive thinking on the brain. It showed that positive emotions broadened a sense of multiple possibilities and opens the mind to more options. In addition, had demonstrated an enhanced ability to develop resources.

Even in the New Testament we find passages about what has been called “the law of abundance,” that is, the idea that by giving you will receive and the more you give, the more you will have abundance. We read in Luke: “Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” And in Mathew we read: “Whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them.”

While televangelists like to utilize these passages to promise donors a reward for supporting their cause and motivational speakers promise benefits based upon some of these ideas, there is a genuine benefit from reasonable application of the concepts.

There are hundreds of books dealing with self-improvement and even more “rules” that are advocated for accomplishing it. A few worth considering among a whole lot more include these ideas from Neuro Linguistic Programing principles.

  1. Be truthful and honest. Speak and act with integrity.  Be who you really are & not pretend.
  2. We already possess all the resources we need to succeed and achieve our goals. We just  need to learn how to unlock them
  3. The meaning of communication is not what is said, but what was understood
  4. You are in charge of your mind and therefore your life
  5. When things get difficult, remember: there is no failure, only helpful feedback.
  6. If one person can do something, we can learn to do it too by modeling the  thinking and behavior
  7. The mind and body are part of the same system and one effects the other.
  8. Every behavior comes from a positive intention. Look behind behavior to the intent
  9. The map is not the territory. We don’t respond to the facts, but rather our mental picture of it. We need to revise our mind to the reality of the world as it exists.
  10. People choose what they believe is the best choice. Choices are based upon experience. More  and  better experiences allow for more choices

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