In a Difficult Political Year, Raise the Bar

The lawyer’s job gets more difficult in proportion to the political climate in which we practice. And I cannot imagine a more difficult one than the spectacle of an election that we are all enduring. I have been saddened, anxious, and have been tempted to grow even more cynical. I have had my intelligence insulted and have been dumbfounded. It is only a matter of time before you see some reflection of the climate unfold itself in the tone of the briefs you read or the climate of the courtroom. And it may be me or you who are lowering the bar if we are not careful.

That is, unless you choose to raise the level of discourse and the level of compassion. I personally believe that the court system is the small engine that keeps democracy going. No matter what the other branches do, there is something in our courts that connects us to an ideal that predates our young country. And through many events in my professional life, the justice system is the elastic that always seems to stretch but not break. Alas, it is far from perfect in many particular instances. But the core identity of it is something in which I place a great deal of faith.

In the weeks ahead, no matter what you see on the news, make the choice not to internalize the level of discourse you see. Reach out to a client or a client’s family with compassion. Take a colleague, particularly a colleague on the other side of a case, to lunch. Raise your professionalism in court another notch. Do great things in your practice. When you do those things, you help this part of democracy remain connected to some higher sense of purpose that appears to be eluding us in democracy’s other components.

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