As trial advocates we are tested in many ways while carrying our professional duties for our clients. We fail to stop, at intervals, and reflect on this aspect of our lives. Here are a couple of basic reflections you might find beneficial to consider. Nothing profound, but subjects we may find applicable to our lives.
If you do your job well and with courage you will offend some people
If we fulfill our role as advocates, no matter how professionally we conduct ourselves, we are likely going to cause resentments and even make enemies. Someone once wrote “He who has never offended anyone never did anyone any good.” Charles Mackay cautioned:
You have no enemies, you say? Alas, my friend, the boast is poor. He who has mingled in the fray of duty that the brave endure, must have made foes. If you have none, small is the work that you have done. You’ve hit no traitor on the hip. You’ve dashed no cup from perjured lip. You’ve never turned the wrong to right. You’ve been a coward in the fight.”
Regarding, people we may have offended, we have the thought of Abraham Lincoln. He had a multitude of political enemies and was assassinated by one of them. Lincoln’s philosophy was:
“If I were to try to read, much less answer all the attacks, made on me, this shop might as well be closed for any other business. I do the very best I know how – the best I can; and I mean to keep on doing so until the end. If the end brings me out all right, then what is said against me won’t matter. If the end brings me out wrong, then ten angels swearing I was right would make no difference.
Robert Mitchum was a famous movie actor of the 1950’s. He was once interviewed and was asked how he dealt with critics of his work. He replied: “There are always people who will object. If you are short, tall people will diminish you. If you are tall, shorter people don’t like you. If you’re alive, people wish you were dead. I do the best I can for the most I can and if it displeases somebody, I’m sorry. I take what came and did the best I could with it.”
Of course, it does make a difference who is being critical of you. One day in the House of Commons a Socialist member made a verbal personal attack on Winston Churchill. When it was over, Churchill rose and said to the assembly “If I valued the opinion of the honorable gentleman, I might be offended.” It is also important how we react that makes all the difference.
We may be unpopular with some, may be disliked or even hated by others even if not justified. Remember, as advocates., we took an oath to represent our clients with courage in spite of the consequences. While conducting ourselves in a professional manner, it is true someone has said:
“In this world I would rather live two days like a tiger, then two hundred years like a sheep.”
Life does have some rules which we need to learn
There are some facts that apply in a universal way that they can be called “rules of life.”. For example, in the poem After a While Veronica A. Shoffstall writes:
“After a while, you learn the subtle difference between holding a hand and chaining a soul, And you learn that love doesn’t mean leaning. And company doesn’t mean security.
And you began to learn that kisses aren’t contracts. And presents aren’t promises
And you begin to accept your defeats with your head up and your eyes open, with the grace of a woman, not the grief of a child, And learn to build all your roads on today. Because tomorrow’s ground is too uncertain for plans, And futures have a way of falling down in midflight.
And after a while, you learn that even sunshine burns if you get too much. So you plant your own garden and decorate your own soul. Instead of waiting for someone to bring you flowers.
And you learn that you really can endure…That you really are strong. And you really do have worth. And you learn and learn…with every goodbye, you learn”
The late Ann Landers printed these “tips for life”:
1. When you say I’m sorry, look the person in the eye.
2. Love deeply and passionately. You might get hurt, but it’s the only way to live life completely.
3. Call your mom
4. Smile when picking up the phone. The caller will hear it in your voice.
5. Remember silence is sometimes the best answer
6. When you have an argument with someone close to you, deal with the current situation and don’t bring up the past.
7. Never interrupt when you are being complimented
8. Mind your own business
9. Trust in God, but lock your door
10. When you know you are wrong, take immediate steps to fix it.
Alexander Chalmers, the Scottish writer, has said “The three grand essentials of happiness are: something to do, someone to love and something to hope for.” Bill Cosby was quoted as saying: “I cannot give you the formula for success, but I can give you the formula for failure – try to please everybody.”
A few years ago, a magazine interviewed a number of people about their personal rules of life. One elderly man, William Van Hooser, said his was this: “Life’s a dance. Take it one step at a time and keep listening for the music.” When two rodeo cowboys from Twin Bridges, Montana were asked about their rule of life they said “There’s only about three things that’s really most important. Be honest, do your best and like what you’re doing. And get up as good as winner as you are a loser.”
Someone else said “do what you enjoy, what you’re best at and life will let you find a way to succeed. “Christian D. Larson has written about life. He says:
“Promise yourself to be so strong that nothing can disturb your peace of mind; to talk health happiness and prosperity; to forget the mistakes of the past and profit by them; to wear a cheerful countenance and give a smile to everyone you meet; to be too large for worry, too noble for anger, too strong for fear and too happy to permit the presence of trouble.”
It’s been pointed out that life is like an hourglass. Only one grain of sand can pass at a time. When you are so busy you are flying in all directions remember that each of the tasks need to be dealt with one at a time and not all at once.
Other rules of life include: “Live with enthusiasm. Dance like nobody is watching. Work like you don’t need the money and love like you have never been hurt. And Theodore Roosevelt advised “do what you can, with what you have, where you are.”
Someone has written their ten rules for being human being which they describe as follows:
1. You will receive a body. You may like it or hate it, but it will be yours for the entire period you are around.
2. You will learn lessons. You are enrolled in a full-time informal school called life. Each day in this school you will have the chance to learn lessons. You may like the lessons or think them stupid, but you will have lessons to learn.
3. There are no mistakes, only lessons. Growth is a process of trial and error. The failed experiments are as much a part of the process as the experiments that are successful.
4. A lesson will be repeated until learned. A lesson will be presented to you again and again until you learn it. When you have learned it you will be allowed to go on to learn more lessons.
5. Learning does not end. There is no part of life that does not contain lessons. As long as you are alive there will be lessons
6. There is no better place then here. When you have reached “there” you will simply be given another “there.” that will look better to you then here. Here and now is the best place to be.
7. Others are simply mirrors of you. You cannot love or hate something about another person unless it is a reflection of what you love or hate about yourself.
8. What you make of life is up to you. You have all the tools and resources you need. What you do with them is up to you. The choice is yours.
9. Your answers lie within you. The answers to life’s questions lie within you. All you need to do is look, listen and trust.
10. You will forget all of these rules.
A golf magazine had rules playing golf which apply just as easily to living life: They were:
1. Play only one hole at a time. Stay in the present. Keep your mind on the hole you are playing. Taking care of the present lets the future take care of itself.
2. Resist the urge to add it up. Avoid thinking about breaking your personal record and stay in the present.
3. Focus. Concentrate on hitting great shots rather then worrying about bad ones or what people will think if you don’t do well. Visualize the ball going to the target.
Our goal should include to become a better person and a better lawyer. A better lawyer means we do a better job for our clients and maybe make a better world in the process. In that process we leave something beneficial for those who follow us. As Henry Wadsworth Longfellow says in A Psalm of Life
Lives of great men all remind us
And, departing, leave behind us
We can make our lives sublime
And, departing, leave behind us
Footprints on the sands of time.
Footprints, that perhaps another,
Sailing o’er life’s solemn main,
A forlorn and shipwrecked brother,
Seeing, shall take heart again.
What are your “rules of life”? They are worth thinking about and creating for not only our benefit, but for the benefit of others.