YOUR TIME IS ALMOST UP – PLEASE PREPARE TO BE SEATED

I went to college fifty years ago. I learned a kind of careful textual analysis that they called “critical thinking.” I learned a style of writing that they called “explicative discourse.” I got good grades.

 

I took a course in marketing twenty years ago. I learned how to abbreviate my message into a “tag line.” I learned to tell it all in an “elevator speech.” I did it well, or so I thought. At the end of the course, I got a “pass” because no other grade was offered except “fail.”

 

I have now been a lawyer for over 30 years and I have drawn on all of the skills of persuasion in my arsenal for the benefit of my clients. But I do not know how to win an argument when the decision is made before I start, and for reasons completely outside of the topic of the “discourse.” Sure, I have always had to contend with prejudices and gut feelings. But, how can any modern thinker step into the middle of a polarized discussion and speak directly to what is really going on?

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FLOATING ON THE SHALLOW RIO

Deborah and I began October by renting a canoe and spending three hours paddling down the Rio Grande. We put in near Algodones and were picked up above Corrales. In that short stretch of river, we had October weather: sunny heat followed by a hailstorm followed by white luminous clouds – which drifted and stalled above blue-green mountains.

 

It is her birthday and we are both now passing through traditional retirement age. She is negotiating a full-time contract and I am renewing my exorbitant malpractice insurance for yet another year. We seem still to be proving ourselves as professionals, only now we are proving some quite different propositions about gender, age and how to be of service.

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HOURLY BILLING DILEMMA

A physician may not accept a fee for giving advice to a patient, because in sharing learning and wisdom with his patient, he performs the religious duty of restoring health to a person who has lost it. And just as God performs his services gratuitously, so should a physician. However, a physician may accept payment for the time he spends in visiting a patient, and the trouble he takes to write prescriptions.

Joseph Caro,1488-1575
Code of Jewish Law
Chap 336, Sect. 2

I have been among countless professionals who charge by the hour. Nevertheless when I am the person paying for service, being charged by the hour does not sit well with me. So I am going to change how I charge. I am trying to discern a not-too-complicated method that better reflects what people want from a lawyer.

When I meet with a professional, what I want is not her time; I want her wisdom and insight. I want her to listen and understand my situation, bringing the background of having heard similar stories from similar patients and clients. I want her to educate me and give me the right lingo to look it up on the Internet myself. I want her to give me a range of possible solutions and the criteria for choosing among them. And I want a clean, efficient business system that makes the payment process as painless as possible.

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