Thursday, August 26, 2010


First, before reading my pithy remarks today, you've just got to watch this video.

Everyone who rides horses knows that if you come off, you must get right back on.  There are two reasons for this.  First, if the rider doesn't get right back up, there's a good chance it will be a long time before the fear caused by the incident will be conquered.  To ride horses means one must simply be resilient, must bounce back, must try again.

Second, if you don't get back on, pretty soon the horse learns that unseating the rider is an effective evasion.  That's really bad for the horse, because eventually that sort of behavior leads to the glue factory.

Those of us who love to ride force ourselves to overcome anxiety about being hurt by the creatures, because our love for the sport outweighs our desire for self preservation.  There are many riders for whom this is no great feat, they've never really been much concerned about injury.  They're not the brave riders, they're the ones we often call stupid brave.  Fun to watch, not necessarily resilient, but just off the scale in their willingness to take personal risks. 

The most courageous people, though, are the ones who aren't so sanguine about the hazards, but have to consciously force themselves to be resilient.  And even more awesome are those whose life experiences make it unusually difficult to get back on knowing how bad it is when disasters happen, when life gets tough, when friends and lovers die or abandon them and the hurt is too great to risk again.  It is a real accomplishment just to get back on when you know you could get thrown again and that it will really hurt.  But you keep getting on.  That's not stupid brave, that's true courage, and its awesome. 

To the women I know who keep "getting back on" after bad falls in their professional careers and personal lives, my hat (usually, my helmet) is off to you.  You are my inspiration when it seems too hard to try again.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

M is for Meetings and Multi-tasking

The letter of the day today is "M".  I attend a lot of board meetings for clients and for personal purposes, and like all the rest of you also have to attend my share of administrative and business meetings.  Having attended so many well organized, planned and productive meetings, I'm pretty impatient with meeting organizers who don't do the job of making a meeting work.  In fact it's one of my pet peeves.  I'm happy to report that I just left a really well run board meeting so I'm in a fairly good mood.  And that's a good thing for writing this post.  For tips on what makes a good meeting worthwhile for its participants, read What is a Meeting from several years ago.  Not much has changed since then, except for one thing that I didn't rage about then, but will now, even though I'm in such a darn cheerful mood.

If I ran the world, I'd take away everyone's smart phone when they enter the meeting room.  NOTHING is more disrespectful than attending an hour long meeting and constantly checking the blackberry.  If a meeting is so low in content that every member can be watching their email throughout the entire meeting, then everyone should just go home.  I might make an exception for an all day board meeting or business retreat where people in attendance are in the middle of a closing, but for heaven's sake over the lunch hour one can't be without access?  That's as serious an addiction as drinking at lunch.  Perhaps someone in recovery from BB addiction can start a 12 step program for access junkies.

I know, I know, you're just so darn busy that you have to multi-task.  That's my other M word today.  And you bet I love to multi-task, which is what I'm doing right now.  This is the second time I've written and posted to the blog from the BART train so I'm racing to get all my thoughts out and links connected between tunnels.  I'm all in favor of using down time (like commuting, standing in line at Safeway, waiting for Darling to be released from soccer practice) to check emails or upload photos to facebook.

But show some respect for your professional colleagues and give them your complete attention in meetings.  Or, alternatively, show them just how much you disrespect their time.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Women and Law Reviews

Just when I thought I was going to have to re-publish some tirade I wrote in the past several years, a new topic comes along thanks to my favorite reader. It hadn't actually occurred to me to wonder whether there was still bias at the law school law reviews. According to AboveTheLaw's recent post Minorities and Women and Law Reviews, Oh My!  there are some schools where there seems to be a lack of balance among male and female representation on that icon of law school success, the law review. I have to believe that it is something other than insidious discrimination against women in those rare schools where the male to female ratio is not in balance with the student body. Perhaps someone will do a more statistically sound survey of law review composition.

The more disturbing statistics reported in the AboveTheLaw post relate to the under-represented minorities. The article suggests that it is more of a pipeline problem than a discrimination challenge. Either way, the top law schools really should pay attention to the apparent problem. I don't think UCLA's approach makes sense, though: the idea that law review applicants should write what amounts to a personal statement in order to improve their chances of being selected seems childish. As lawyers, we don't get to write personal statements about why our client's views should provide a better negotiated agreement, or why the jury should rule in our client's favor because the lawyer is a woman, or a minority. Sure, there will always be prejudgement, bias, favoritism, firm politics, and favored "insiders" whose views are received more favorably even if misguided, unprepared and wrong. But success in this profession isn't doled out on the basis of compelling personal statements. Maybe it should be, but it's not.

Law school is about the right time to face the reality and meet it head on.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Haiku #20

Discourage dissent
Crush new ideas, and then
Silence, absence, gone.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

Okay team, I'm feeling very green these days. Some of you may have noticed, as did my number one fan, that I've been reusing some of my earlier posts. Not sure how that is good for the environment but it is good for me. It's not a crime, though, for a blogger to reuse earlier material. Lots of columnists (at least the lazier ones) re-publish their work when on vacation. No, I haven't had a vacation, but I have been pretty preoccupied with moving and some exciting personal activities. Regardless of whether some of my most loyal fans think it’s a sign of laziness to reuse posts. I know I have many newer readers who are unlikely to slog through my abundant writing over the last few years seeking out the gems. So it seems a service to my constituents to bring the oldies but goodies back.

The need to justify my actions brought me to the three R's, and a discussion with a couple of young lawyers today brought the theme home and gave me enough to write about. One of the guys, an associate I know, was enthusiastically telling me about a paper he's writing for an LLM class he's taking in his spare time after work. We brainstormed whether and how the effort he's put into writing the paper can be recycled into a work he can publish. Being as lazy as I am, I'm always looking for ways to recycle (or, perhaps more politically said, "leverage") my work. My colleague clearly isn't lazy, but I still think it's a great idea to look for ways to recycle work product to build knowledge, exposure, and business.

The other natural theme from today's events is "reduce." I also had a chat with an associate about using one word rather than four to express concepts in legal documents. So that reminds me to remind you all to revisit my writing icon, Brian Garner, for tips on how to write well. For lawyers, that usually requires omitting needless words.

So, reuse, reduce and recycle. Enough said.