AFTER THE REVOLUTION

I wish I could show you the iPhone video my friend Diane took of her grandkids. They are triplets who toddle and, in this episode, they invent a game of bringing Diane rocks from alongside an Albuquerque sidewalk. The kind grandmother accepts each of their gifts and gives each something in return. Very quickly there arises competition, with innovations and permutations. The girl kept testing her strength, bringing larger and larger rocks, which Diane would replace with money-sized pebbles.

 

I remembered scenes from Mandela where the imprisoned Nelson Mandela was doing hard physical work that his jailers meant as punishment but that could more philosophically be understood as the plight of humankind. What might have broken another man actually gave Mandela greater resolve. He was a person whose course had been set in his youth and whose commitment to justice deepened in exile. He was the first to note that his story could have ended differently.

Bernie Sanders was a young radical who has spent his entire adulthood inventing ways to bring a better life to the disempowered. Today he has started a political revolution. While the pundits smirk, believing that mere words will not change much (since their own well-articulated opinions seem seldom to earn even a round of applause).

 

The millenials whom Sanders has ignited are not the uneducated, undisciplined, impoverished masses of Karl Marx’s nineteenth century. They may be broke because of it, but they have done their study of history. They may be a diverse mix of races and cultures, but they are in strategic communication. They may lack financial capital but they are starting entrepreneurial ventures together that prove the social potential of a free economic system. Just how free the rich allow them to be may become a question, but the sons and daughters of the oligarchs are among them.

 

We are living in the aftermath of the Arab Spring, when repressive governments were toppled. Without an alternative structure or a strong legislature in place, anarchy quickly gave way to theocracy, murder and social displacement. Today, refugees are seeking the safety of established democracies even as our democracies are being threatened from within by angry citizenries.

 

Whether the developed world regresses toward fascism, environmental depletion, interpersonal violence and intertribal hatred will depend on the vision, tenacity, and cooperative intelligence of the young people experiencing Bernie’s political awakening. Can they re-form government? Can they spend their adult lives with singleness of purpose like Mandela? Can they be satisfied with smaller victories over a long time like Bernie Sanders?

 

Although I pose these questions as though the answer lies in personal qualities and moral uprightness, my own social experience tells me that true change happens in very intimate relationships. People scoffed at Gloria Steinem for suggesting that young women went where young men went. But our life paths are made with comrades. Perhaps both young men and young women turned away from Hilary Clinton because of their mutual attraction to a stronger message of hope. We do tend to trust whomever the loved ones we trust are trusting.

 

When I was 20, I did not trust the cynics. When I was 20 and angry, I did not respond well to being mollified, corrected, placated or ignored. When I was 20, I was right and I knew it. All that has changed about me is that I now understand that there are a lot of other right answers.

 

LAW AND THE PERSONS IT CREATES

When I was in my first term of law school, I commented frequently about how expensive some of the Supreme Court cases we were studying must have been. One professor singled me out as the kind of politically-minded woman who often goes into “poverty law.” I informed him that I hoped to represent the interests of the middle class. Back then, there was a middle class. Back then, there were still job openings to serve Main St. rather than Wall St. But my career in service to middle income clients is drying up.

 

Even though we listeners will distinguish between the output of a corporate marketing department and the spoken views of a pedestrian headed for the polls, the justices of our Supreme Court ruled in the recent Citizens United case the two should have similar constitutional rights of free speech. And the justices may be right, even though the result is that they gave the privileged rich guys a bullhorn.

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ALWAYS ON THE RECORD

No one took a poll of my graduating law school class, but I do not think I would be wrong to suppose that most of us thought that we were going to go out into the world offering legal information, advice and advocacy.  Some, like me, wanted to write.  Others wanted to try cases.  

 

We began our practices inn 1984 just as word processing took hold in office systems and we hired secretarial staff ready to operate computers, answer telephones, and type from dictation.  I had trained in Iowa where my classmates were setting up Main St. law offices and, even though I had moved to New Mexico, I pretty much did the same.  

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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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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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