Are All Lawyers Agents of Social Change?

Wide-eyed, hopeful, a little bit scared, and with big dreams to change the world. That’s how many of us enter law school. In short order, real life swoops in and your dreams begin to be eroded until they’re a little bit more in line with “reality.” If you’re in law school, and feeling this way, stop yourself right now! Even with a job market that is still struggling enormously, and mountains of debt, and the harsh reality of becoming a practicing attorney, you are still entering a profession that gives you enormous possibilities for social change. And that’s what you wanted, right? Change. (Channeling Obama’s ’08 campaign here.)

The rigors, realities and big surprises of real life can’t take that away from you. No matter where you end up, or where your future takes you, if you want to be an agent of social change, then you can be. Especially if you’re a member of the bar. I happen to work in a field that goes hand in hand with social change. Trial lawyers attempt to shine a light on unsafe or unfair business practices and try to make the world a safer place for families and consumers. But, even if you believe your job doesn’t contain this particularl component, there are still so many avenues for you to make a difference.

Pro bono work, bar association involvement, community volunteering, dial-a-lawyer programs. There are vast numbers of opportunities for every type of practicing lawyer to give back to our communities. I see it every day: a small thing that you can do as a lawyer, for someone who doesn’t have meaningful access to the legal system, can absolutely make that person’s day. Each time you help someone, or lobby for better legislation, or give your time to a legal aid organization, you are participating in social change.

And even if you don’t have time for any of that. Simply by practicing law, and bringing unimpeachable ethics, a good heart and a clear moral compass to your work every day can have a positive influence on your clients, your opposing counsel and on the outcome of any one case. Lawyers bear an immense amount of responsibility, but you can rest assured that your job, no matter what it ends up being, brings with it many incredible opportunities to bring about the change you want to see in the world.

4 Days Without A Phone

By choice, and while on vacation, I shut my iphone off completely. I checked email once a day on a computer that’s not even mine. And guess what? The world didn’t end.

We were in the Dominican Republic. A beautiful country, filled with absolutely wonderful people. And the beaches were magnificent.

Dominican beach

 

The DR was a place of great meaning and purpose for my little brother Mike. Now I can see why.

Teaching

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I love teaching, because of how much I learn when I’m doing it. This was taken while presenting at the “Practicing With Professionalism” course at UMass School of Law in Dartmouth, Massachusetts last week. A packed room full of promising new attorneys.

Who’s Afraid to Litigate?

Companies are afraid to litigate, that’s who. They’re afraid to litigate against you.  I’m fairly certain you think the opposite is true, that companies are ready to meet their opponents openly and fairly in our court system. Untrue. Because you, potential plaintiff, by being a citizen of the United States, have a great many rights provided to you that people around the globe are simply never provided. And that gives you enormous power.

It is very likely that everyone reading this blog post has, either knowingly or unknowingly, submitted to what is called a “forced arbitration clause” in exchange for goods, services, or employment. This is because companies, in an effort to immunize themselves from liability, would prefer to force potential plaintiffs to bring claims behind the closed doors of an arbitrator’s office, and further undermine the good that can be done via the civil justice system. This practice has a particularly disturbing impact on women.

While working for defunct retailer Circuit City, Tia Holloman was subjected to two months of appalling sexual harassment that included her supervisor exposing his genitals to her, grabbing her and parading her around the store when she tried to escape his abuse — an event that was recorded by the store’s surveillance camera. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission found in Tia’s favor, but despite the evidence against Circuit City and her supervisor, Tia’s sexual harassment case was thrown out of court because of a pervasive injustice lurking in her employment agreement – a forced arbitration clause.

Tia should have been protected by laws prohibiting sexual harassment, most notably Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, but Circuit City evaded this landmark law through the use of forced arbitration. These clauses, buried in the fine print of everything from employee handbooks and loan applications to website terms of service and even school field trip permission slips, eliminate access to the courts where women can assert their rights and replaces our civil justice system with a private, and confidential, dispute mill. Arbitration also eliminates all rights to an appeal.

Forced arbitration is among the biggest threats to women’s rights in the workplace, the classroom and their communities. And yet most of us don’t know it exists.

By eliminating a woman’s right to enforce our laws in court, forced arbitration undermines Title VII of the Civil Rights Acts, the Equal Pay Act, the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, the Pregnancy Discrimination Act and the Family and Medical Leave Act—all of which were fought for and won by courageous advocates whose legacy must be preserved.

The well-known adage “sunshine is the best disinfectant” comes to mind here. Horrible abuses and injustices always take place behind closed doors. Whereas open doors keep people honest. Often, these violations of law can be stopped only when the victims have access to a fair and open legal system, thereby shining a light on practices most citizens would find morally reprehensible. In this way, perpetrators of abuse and harrassment can be asked to answer for their behavior and are forced to take responsibility for their actions. This type of process also helps to ensure that certain policies and practices, or abuses and harrassment, do not happen to other people in similar situations.

Ah, the many benefits of civil litigation. Let’s keep the courthouse doors open. Let’s protect our friends, family members and fellow citizens from being forced to give up their Constitutional right to a jury trial. No one fears the Constitution more than those corporations that are constantly violating it.

On Dream Jobs And Reality

WordPress provides bloggers a “daily prompt” in order to get people thinking about specific topics, or to provoke creative blog posts. Recently, the prompt was to describe your dream job. And it got me thinking about how we define dream jobs, and how we find dream jobs. In short, I am not sure we are doing it right.

Lots of people would say their dream job would be to “travel” or “be a professional athlete” or “an artist.” Basically, their dream job is when they get paid for performing their favorite activities or hobbies. Five years ago, I’m sure my “dream job” would have been to run, or be a personal trainer. Because I love to run and train in my free time. But when your favorite activities become a job, everything changes.

With a job comes responsibilities, pressure, deadlines, a paycheck, taxes, coworkers. You could argue that turning your favorite hobby into a job has the distinct potential to ruin it. Maybe we continue to love our extracurriculars because they aren’t our jobs?

I’ve been very open about the fact that, in law school, I was fairly determined to become a prosecutor. Looking back now, it would not have been an appropriate fit. At the time, though, that was hard to accept. But I had to move on and find a place for myself. Thank God I did. I landed in a job that, although I didn’t know it would be at the time, is most definitely my dream job.

Because more than simply doing something you enjoy, happiness comes about when people feel they have a greater purpose. Helping others, usually. If running was my job, I’m not certain I’d feel that sense of purpose. Running brings me a lot of wonderful things: a sense of accomplishment, stress relief, fitness, fun, a continued drive to achieve goals. But my actual job brings me so much more. Intellectual and professional challenges, enduring and deep relationships with incredible colleagues, a very deep sense of purpose and the feeling that I’m giving something back to the world, leaving a mark.

This is not to say artists and professional athletes don’t have this sense of purpose. In fact, I think most of them truly do; more than other people. Olympians are certainly leaving their mark. My point is that we are often encouraged to define our dream job by what we love to do and not by what we want to leave behind.

Sometimes, our hobbies and activities don’t actually have what it takes to be a dream job. So instead of thinking about those things you love to do, ask yourself “what am I here to do?” If it’s to coach high school tennis, or teach English to disadvantaged children, or to paint landscapes on every continent…the only thing that matters, at the end of it all, is if you feel like you’ve left something behind and accomplished a little bit of your purpose.

Phone calls, and emails, and texts….oh my.

The flurry of communication every day is so overwhelming, I heard someone say that they needed to hire someone simply to manage their inbox. In the course of one day, he had accumulated hundreds of unread emails. It is crushing. Add to this the daily phone calls, both personal and professional, text messages from friends and loved ones, and your own personal email inbox and the urge to headbutt the screens that surround us becomes an attractive option.

I’ve noticed that when we become overwhelmed, people often try to cull, cut back, clear the clutter. And the first thing to go? Personal lives, going out with friends, emailing your old college roommates, talking for hours with your mom on the phone. It all goes first, right out the window of your downtown high-rise. Still surrounded by screens, and buildings, the noises of the city, and the dinging of your inbox as each new email comes in. Still surrounded by obligations.

And even when you do try to “cull” or “say no” to things, I guarantee you find out pretty quickly that you can’t really say no to applying for that leadership position, and you can’t say no to seeing an old friend, or having brunch with your mom, or writing that brief, or bringing dinner to your grandparents. It’s all important.

How should we manage all of this important stuff? Usually, I have some sort of tip or trick. But there isn’t anything that’s going to make it any easier. Try your best to walk the tightrope, be protective of your weekends, don’t stay at the office too late, tell everyone you love how much you love them. But some days, just embrace the beautiful chaos and keep smiling.

City Landing

I can’t take credit for this discovery. My partner did the work of unearthing this vegan gem in downtown Boston. When it comes to fine vegan dining, a suitable restaurant can be tough to find. But City Landing has a “regular” menu as well as gluten-free, vegetarian, dairy-free and vegan options. Be honest: does it get better than that? Options, options, options. We Americans like our freedom of choice.

photo (5)Inside, the restaurant is elegant. The bar is located to the left when you enter, the dining room on the right so that those enjoying a meal don’t have to compete with the noise of a bar. Soft lighting, a relaxed atmosphere with the Rose Kennedy Greenway illuminated outside. Perfect for a date night.

Our first visit to City Landing was two weeks ago, and we tried nearly everything on the vegan menu. My entree was the standout, though, with vegan sweet potato ravioli and curried seitan. We returned for a second round just last night. I enjoyed the vegan fried rice with baby vegetables. Eric couldn’t help finishing mine once he was done with his buffalo meatloaf. This restaurant has something for everyone…options galore. I stuck with my vegan fare and was delighted with the food. And Eric, although a carnivore, was able to swap out goat cheese for soy-based cheese and order dairy free sides with his main dish.

We plan on returning frequently, as this restaurant will be even more spectacular during the summer months as it’s situated where the ferry drops off at the Aquarium. This means you’re right by the water and by the Greenway, both perfect for a leisurely post-meal stroll when Boston finally thaws out.

Travel, Food and Fun in February

New Orleans. Where do I even begin? These business trips to AAJ conventions are so full of education, networking, socializing and partying that when I finally get to the end of it, I look back at a whirlwind of events and have to work at teasing out the various things I’ve done and all the incredible trial lawyers I’ve met.

The first thing worth mentioning is simply that I had the distinct pleasure of getting out of the exhausting Boston cold and into the warm embrace of a Louisiana winter. On two mornings, I photo 1 (2)walked around in the sunshine enjoying the 65 degree days without a coat on. As I sat by the riverfront, I watched the ships cruise by soundlessly and made friends with a homeless veteran. Seems everyone down south is friendlier than in New England.

Conventions are tiring, though. And as you bounce around from reception to reception, party to party and lunch date to lunch date, it’s easy to get lost in your own fatigue. This is only compounded when you’re in New Orleans and have no choice but to stay out until an ungodly hour.

As you can imagine, trying to keep vegan in New Orleans is next to impossible, especially with pralines around every corner! This particular photo (4)southern delicacy has eluded me my entire life. When I picked up my first praline at a New Orleans cooking school, and took that first bite, it stopped me dead in my tracks. Why haven’t I been eating butter again?? Oh, right right, it’s not “healthy.” That didn’t stop me. The pralines were incredible. Worth it.

After the inevitable guilt monster came crashing down on me after gorging on pralines, in a serendipitous coincidence I overheard another vegetable-eater getting a recommendation for a vegan restaurant in the elevator. Joy! It was right around the corner from my hotel! Green goddess. You can see here I proceeded to gorge myself on pomegranate-beet hummus and tofu bahn-mi.photo 2 (2) photo 1 (3) photo 3 (3)

I really don’t do moderation…ever. Maybe New Orleans actually fits my personality. And maybe it’s best I stay away from a city that thrives on excesses of every type.

After five days away, I was so happy to come home. And even happier to discover that at least one person was equally enthusiastic about my return:

photo 2 (1)

And finally, this week was capped off with an unforgettable trip to the floor of the Boston photo 4 (2)Garden (yes, I still call it the Garden and I always will) with the Massachusetts Bar Association. Rajon Rondo was shooting and stretching mere feet from me and Walter McCarty was taking free throws, my closest brush with athletic superstardom to date.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

10 Reasons To Date a Long Distance Runner.

thelimberlawyer:

Absolutely worth a re-blog. I agree with every piece of this!

Originally posted on We Run For Cupcakes:

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It’s national love day. It’s Oregon’s birthday. It is the completion of a hellish week in the school of dental hygiene. I am exhausted. But. This post needs to be shared.

The preface is this: I am not touting my unattached status. Technically, I’m married. To school, that is. It isn’t the healthiest relationship, as it takes up all of my time and currently gives little in return. I’m told that my patience and perseverance will be rewarded in the end, and it will become a mutually beneficial relationship come August 2015. Crossing my fingers. Plus, any and all free time is filled with running. Sorry, boys.

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While I am not a large fan of obligatory displays of love and affection fueled by Hallmark and would much prefer chocolate, flowers, or a covered race entry fee on a random Wednesday, I want to give a shout out to my fellow…

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