April 2015 Bar Bulletin
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April 2015 Bar Bulletin

Do You Still Believe in the Law?

By Robert WM Zierman


Do you still hew to the values and beliefs that prompted you to become a lawyer? Even if one or both of your parents were lawyers, due to the legal canon of client privilege you probably had no real idea of the "facts of life" of the legal layer cake.1 Now that you do, do you still "drink the Kool-Aid?" Or did your lofty beliefs and ideals come and go like the flash in the pan of that particularly grotesque and idiotic phrase itself.2

Having a legal education and right to practice law is a double-edged sword. It gives you the "keys to the kingdom." Yet the price paid is that one must learn to "think like a lawyer." This means that we all went through a process of seeking to rationally deconstruct and reconstruct meaning. Legal reasoning is a method of thought that requires highly specific, rational focus. Yet that type of thinking is only one of two core functions of the brain.

In a formidable lecture, psychiatrist Iain McGilchrist demonstrates that while the rational, narrowly focused mind is critical, it is lifeless. In contrast, the intuitive mind allows an understanding of the broad view, and it is this understanding where we are able to note change and to share connection.3

Extrapolating, it seems that lawyers' deep dive into focused, rational thought serves to unhinge us from connections with others and with change itself. The former topic is ripe for discussion, but that isn't going to happen this month. Instead, this article seeks to highlight that there is a profound need for our profession to look up from our respective "microscopes" and have a constructive conversation about this other core mental function that is much more adept at relating to change.

Why? We need to do this not merely because our industry is changing, but because society itself is in a state of unprecedented change. We are living in an increasingly interconnected world in which many of our legal constructs are appearing increasingly antiquated. This is occurring because technology is drilling down on perhaps the primary rationale for having laws in the first place - to reinforce trust.

There is a line presented to me by an ex-pat friend while in China, which I find to be particularly sage. It goes something on the order of: "Let you always be able to look slightly over the horizon. But, may it never be so far that you can't point it out to your neighbor."4 This quote has three components: insight, sharing and credibility.

Being able to "look" over the horizon means you have the ability "to see" the future. The best way to explain this is that some people just have a greater ability to envision the confluence of current trends and, thus, to explain likely future occurrences. According to Chrystia Freeland in her book Plutocrats, this is now perhaps the greatest engine for social mobility in today's world. Unfortunately, it's not a means of wealth creation. It's merely a means of wealth transfer.

The character of Gordon Gekko in the 1987 movie "Wall Street" explains this fairly simply and rather prophetically, given today's emphasis on socio-economic dichotomy: "The richest 1 percent of this country owns half of our country's wealth, $5 trillion. One-third of that comes from hard work, two-thirds comes from an inheritance, interest on interest accumulating to widows and idiot sons, and what I do, stock and real estate speculation."

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