The Road Less Traveled

Yesterday I turned 32-years-old. This entire week, I have been searching for the answer to how 32 feels different than 31. That answer finally came to me Monday during my morning run. It’s been ten years since turning 21. And while 32 may not feel all that different than 31, it feels drastically different than 21. In the last ten years, I came to the most important decision that I’ve ever had to make: the decision to dedicate my life towards the betterment of humanity and hope that somewhere along the way, I might stumble upon my own happiness. That decision brought me to the study of law and the long journey to becoming a young lawyer.

It’s now been three-and-a-half years since I took The Oath. This past year has been the most transformative – yet challenging – of my practice. That is due in large part to the fact that it is, now, my practice. Yet I’ve never felt more proud of the work we do and the lives we’ve changed as a result. And I say “we” because it’s always a two-way street. My client and me; I believe we fight the good fight, together. I believe we win, celebrate, laugh, cry, and sometimes, lose, together. Which brings me back to that road; the road less traveled.

The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost is not only one of the greatest poems of all time, but is truly, a motto to live by. Mr. Frost writes:

 Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,

And sorry I could not travel both

And be one traveler, long I stood

And looked down one as far as I could

To where it bent in the undergrowth;

 

Then took the other, as just as fair,

And having perhaps the better claim,

Because it was grassy and wanted wear;

Though as for that the passing there

Had worn them really about the same,

 

And both that morning equally lay

In leaves no step had trodden black.

Oh, I kept the first for another day!

Yet knowing how way leads on to way,

I doubted if I should ever come back.

 

I shall be telling this with a sigh

Somewhere ages and ages hence:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—

I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference.

The world has the misconceptions about lawyers that they are money hungry savages. I believe this misconception exists because the world views the road less traveled by lawyers as being one where we possess a genuine desire to help others. In other words, the average reasonable person thinks: “lawyers don’t care about me, they only care about my money;” or worse, “lawyers hurt, not help.”

As lawyers, I genuinely believe we make the world a better place by helping others. I personally abhor each and every stereotype to the contra. So much so that I devote much of my practice and free time to fighting those stereotypes and proving the world wrong. I’m proud of this work, but even prouder of the knowledge that I am not alone.

In my work with the American Bar Association, Young Lawyers Division, I’ve been fortunate to meet hundreds and convene with thousands of young lawyers from every part of this country that possess that characteristic associated with the road less traveled: a genuine desire to help, not hurt; to bring order to an otherwise chaotic world. I’ve been fortunate to travel from coast to coast, San Diego to Detroit, San Francisco to Miami, and every step of the way, shaken hands with countless hungry, young lawyers that share with me, this road less traveled. It’s only a matter of time before the world hears our voices and changes that misconception. Until then, like traveling headlong into a storm, we must put our face down, and walk, putting one foot in front of the other.

Ten years ago, two roads diverged in a wood. And I, I took the one less traveled by. And that, that has made all the difference. As a young lawyer, I take comfort in knowing that I am not alone.

I hope you will to.

Much love,

-DGL

October 28, 2016, Tampa, Florida

 

 

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How Proportionality Under New Rule 26 Narrows the Breadth of Federal Tort Cases

How Proportionality Under New Rule 26 Narrows the Breadth of Federal Tort Cases

By Domenick Lazzara and Christie Sager

As featured in the American Bar Association’s YLD Tort Trial and Insurance Practice Committee Summer 2016 Newsletter.

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I. Introduction

The December 2015 changes to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure narrows the breath of federal tort cases and encourages efficient discovery practice while emphasizing cooperation among the parties. Even though the most notable changes pertain to discovery under Rule 26, changes to Rule 1 creates an obligation between the parties and the court to cooperate. The new Rule 1 States:

These rules govern the procedure in all civil actions and proceedings in the United States district courts, except as stated in Rule 81. They should be construed, administered, and employed by the court and the parties to secure the just, speedy, and inexpensive determination of every action and proceeding.

Fed. R. Civ. P. 1 (emphasis added).

The Advisory Committee’s Note to Rule 1 highlights this novel and shared responsibility between the parties “to discourage over-use, misuse, and abuse of procedural tools that increase cost and result in delay”. Fed. R. Civ. P. 1., Advisory Committee’s Note to 2015 Amendment. This responsibility sets the stage for discovery practice under the emerging proportionality requirement of Rule 26.

Where Rule 1 mentions proportionality as a footnote of sorts, the changes to Rule 26(b)(1) make proportionality discovery’s centerpiece. Rule 26(b)(1) now states that:

Parties may obtain discovery regarding any nonprivileged matter that is relevant to any party’s claim or defense and proportional to the needs of the case, considering the importance of the issues at stake in the action, the amount in controversy, the parties’ relative access to relevant information, the parties’ resources, the importance of the discovery in resolving the issues, and whether the burden or expense of the purported discovery outweighs its likely benefit. Information within this scope of discovery need not be admissible in evidence to be discoverable.

Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(b)(1) (emphasis added). Under the new Rule 26, the universe of discoverable information must be weighed in relation to the case as a whole. Rationally related and relevant discovery is no longer routinely obtainable. Instead, the Rule 26 amendments restores proportionality and reinforces cooperation from the very beginning of discovery: case management. See generally, Fed. R. Civ. P. 26 Advisory Committee’s Note to 2015 Amendment.

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II. Case Management

To combat the hydra that was bogging down the legal system – cost, delay, and obstinacy – efficient case management has become paramount to effectively navigate discovery under new Rule 26. From the outset, the parties must work to create a clear plan for the direction of the litigation, including listing: all possible claims and defenses; the factual or legal issues that could be raised; and the underlying facts that need to be proved or disproved to make your case. A comprehensive list – which undoubtedly will change and expand as the case proceeds – will provide easy answers to the essential needs of the case. Additionally, this road map will help to craft a discovery plan acutely tuned to what is proportional to those needs.

Efficient case management under the new Rule 26 should paint a clearer picture of what lies ahead as discovery unfolds; especially the discoverable material that will narrow the breadth of federal tort cases. When taking into account the added proportionality requirement of the new Rule 26, discovery no longer needs to include the entire universe of rationally related material.

III. Effective Discovery Under the New Rule 26

Under the new Rule 26, effective discovery in federal tort cases starts early. The Rule 26(d)(2) amendments allow an early document request to be sent to the opposing party 21 days after service of the summons and complaint, even though the parties have not had their required Rule 26(f) conference. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(d)(2); see also, Fed. R. Civ. P. 26, Advisory Committee’s Note to 2015 Amendment. This early document request allows litigants to define the scope of the issues earlier, thereby narrowing the breadth of the case. Doing so allows the parties to eventually come into their Rule 26(f) conference with a much more concise plan for discovery.

Moreover, the changes to Rule 26 are meant to thin out and streamline discovery, incidentally narrowing the breadth of federal tort cases. Every request for discovery may no longer be deemed relevant when weighed against the new proportionality requirement. Effective discovery under the new Rule 26 requires more tailored and intelligent discovery requests. These requests must focus on the issues that need actual discovery and are integral to resolving issues in federal tort cases. If the information is obtainable from other sources – such as the client, internet, or public records, then that information should not be included in the discovery request.

IV. The Reasonable Lawyer

Ushered in with the era of proportional discovery is the reasonable lawyer. The reasonable lawyer is not a push over bending to the whims of opposing counsel, but rather knows which battles need fighting and which are better served with a stipulation. The court and parties are encouraged to cooperate “to discourage over-use, misuse, and abuse of procedural tools that increase cost and result in delay” thus polarizing the justice system. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 1 Advisory Committee’s Note to 2015 Amendment. Quite simply, the new proportionality requirement highlights that it is not reasonable to spend all of the parties’ resources – including time – on discovery. Being reasonable while still effectively representing your client means working with opposing counsel to keep the case’s momentum on track. Early document requests allow for more prepared pre-trial conferences, and stipulations on minor issues keep the focus on issues critical to the case.

In the same vein, general objections to discovery are not reasonable. Under the new Rule 26, a reasonable objection should start in the positive, stating what documents will be produced, and poses the objection as an exception, communicating how the objected-to-items are disproportional to the needs of the case. A well-thought-out discovery objection goes all the way back to the initial case plan, and relays to the judge and opposing counsel how the request is both disproportionate and not reasonable when weighed against the central issues and needs of the case. The reasonable lawyer should cooperate with the court and opposing counsel, and in doing so, may gain the strategic advantage in discovery.

Lee Lazzara

V. Conclusion

The amendments to Rule 26 envision a justice system with a level playing field, consequently narrowing the breadth of federal tort cases. The reasonable and proactive lawyer will get to the starting block early with infantile document requests and well-planned pre-trial conferences. Identifying the critical issues from the outset will map out a discovery plan tailored to circumnavigate all of the relevant issues while remaining proportional to the needs of the overall case.

Walking by Faith

One of my favorite movies is a poorly known – and poorly rated – film entitled “The Book of Eli.” In it, Denzel Washington plays a presumably blind man in a post-apocalyptic world. As the story unfolds, Eli must fight his way across America in order to protect a sacred book that holds the secrets to saving humankind. SPOILER ALERT. Eli’s sacred book is, inter alia, The New King James Bible.

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In a very anti-climatic scene, the greatest truth I’ve encountered in American cinematography is revealed. Eli and his companion, Solara, exchange the following dialogue:

Solara:

“You know, you say you’ve been walking for thirty years, right?”

Eli:

“Right.”

Solara:

“Have you ever thought that maybe you were lost?”

Eli:

“Nope.”

Solara:

“Well, how do you know that you’re walking in the right direction?”

Eli:                 

“I walk by faith, not by sight.”

Eli goes on to explain that faith – in opposition to Solara’s contrary statements – does not have to make sense. Faith is just that; faith. “It’s the flower of light in the field of darkness that gives [us] the strength to carry on.”

As I look around the world today, I echo the sentiments of so many. Our world needs faith now more than ever. And as a young lawyer, in a profession laden with unemployment, unethical practice, and the abuse of power, we as a group need faith more than ever. We need faith to be a beacon in a world that grows darker by the day. But what is faith? And what does it mean to walk by faith, not by sight.

Faith is simply “the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”

-Hebrews 11:11

The greatest Teacher reveals faith to us like this:

During the fourth watch of the night Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. ‘It’s a ghost’ they said, and cried out in fear.

But Jesus immediately said to them: ‘Take courage! It is I. Don’t’ be afraid.’

‘Lord, if it’s you,’ Peter replied, ‘tell me to come to you on the water.’

‘Come,’ he said.

Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus.

-Matthew 15:25-29

Faith is many things to many people.

Faith is a grand cathedral, with divinely pictured windows – standing without, you can see no glory, nor can imagine any, but standing within every ray of light reveals a harmony of unspeakable splendors.

-Nathanial Hawthorne

All I have seen teaches me to trust the Creator for all I have not seen.

-Ralph Waldo Emerson

There are only two ways to live…one is as though nothing is a miracle…the other is as if everything is.

-Albert Einstein

Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement. Nothing can be done without hope and confidence.

-Helen Keller

To me, faith is about doing the right thing, no matter the cost to myself. To be human is to have faith; to retain this amazing ability to believe in that which we cannot see. In that ability – that belief – is the possibility to change the world and effectuate real, tangible transformation. “A small body of determined spirits fired by an unquenchable faith in their mission can alter the course of history.”

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Faith is central to my life and my practice. Every day as a young lawyer in this battlefield riddled with the charred remains of a once noble profession, I challenge myself to walk on water; to walk by faith and possess an ever-present belief that by doing the right thing, I am helping to light a candle in an otherwise obscure wilderness. More often than not, I cannot see the outcome that is sure to follow by doing the right thing. But deep down inside I know – and I believe – that the only outcome that is deserving of my love is that which proceeds a belief in a cause and a purpose greater than us all; doing what is right. That is faith.

As a young lawyer, my heart and prayers go out to all of those precious and beautiful lives that have been taken from this world too soon over these last few months. As a young lawyer, my plea to humanity is that we rediscover what it means to walk by faith. And as a profession, my argument is simple. In your practice, walk by faith; do and believe in the right thing. The world needs it now more than ever.

Three Lessons from Three Years Out

This past week, I celebrated my three-year mark as a young lawyer. Three years feels much different than two and markedly unlike one. I’ve said in the past that the practice of law is just that, a practice. As days turn into weeks, which turn into months, and those months into years, we as lawyers must constantly strive to become better counselors and recognize the lessons in life’s everyday challenges.

For me, the last year has been the most challenging – yet rewarding – of my practice. Both the challenges and the rewards are reflected in the following three lessons from three years out.

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  1. There is no substitute for faith

 

Faith in God. Faith in yourself. Faith in your family, friends and loved ones. Faith in your clients. Faith in your attorney. There is no substitute for faith. The most rewarding phases of my life have been those where I put my faith at the center of everything I did.

The same principle has applied to my practice. When facing a difficult decision, a great attorney once counseled me with this pearl of wisdom: “take the high road.” Sadly in our profession, that road has become the one less traveled. Faith in my Creator and a higher purpose gives me the strength everyday to take the high road in my practice; to do the right thing.

I encourage others in my profession to remember this next time you are faced with a difficult decision. Please, take the high road; do the right thing. I promise you, this investment in our profession will return dividends.

 

  1. True joy sprouts from serving others

 

In The Path of the Law, Oliver Wendall Holmes Jr. writes: “certainty generally is illusion, and repose is not the destiny of man.” This quote harbors my favorite aspect of being a lawyer: helping others.

In my career and my civic life, there has been no greater joy than that derived from service to others. Whether it’s a grateful client, a laughing child, or a proud mother, unadulterated happiness sprouts from a selfless devotion to others.

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As lawyers, another investment we must make is a commitment to public service. I can tell you from personal experience, it will not only make you a better person, but a better lawyer.

 

  1. Clients hire lawyers, not law firms

 

Tying it all together, this past year I’ve had to confront my biggest fear as a young lawyer: finding clients. So far, thanks be to God (Lesson One) and service to others (Lesson Two), success has come and clients have found me. It’s been the highlight of my career. Every day I am blessed to wakeup and go to battle for MY clients.

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When I decided to start a personal injury practice in Tampa, I had my doubts. Tampa Personal injury lawyers and their billboards are as ubiquitous here as palm trees and sunshine. Why would an injured person call me instead of the next talking head or some number on a swagger-clad billboard?

The answer I’ve learned is simple. Clients hire lawyers, not law firms. I’ve been off to a great start because my clients have seen something unique in me. I am grateful to my clients every single day for having the faith and confidence in me to fight for them; for giving me the opportunity to represent them with faith, selfless service, and a little bit of me. 

To all of those who have loved, believed, and supported me throughout these past three years, from the very bottom of my heart, thank you. I am excited to continue down this path with you.

 

 

6 Social Media Marketing Tips For The Young Professional

By Guest Blogger and Marketing Guru, Alyse Faour

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I often wonder what it was like for the generations who could not depend on Facebook and Instagram as a means of getting their names out there.

While we view social media as a blessing, it may be stripping us of our ability to effectively communicate in person. Your online image, coupled with a solid dose of in-person interaction is a powerful self-marketing method.

1. Be relatable

For professionals, start off by knowing your audience and understanding how you can relate to them. Showing your human side in addition to your image as a professional is often what attracts people to you in the first place.

2. Post with a purpose

While we all love your inspirational quotes, it’s not necessary to upload one on your Facebook every 3 hours. Be consistent with interesting updates, yet avoid overwhelming your audience.

3. Connect with people you meet

Reach out to those you meet along the way. This shows others that you value having met them, and they could be a contact you might want to have for the future.

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4. Be patient

It takes time to build your following. If you’re not consistent with your efforts, you can’t expect to see certain results. As a young professional, you have time to strengthen relationships and your reputation, so don’t get frustrated early on.

5. Don’t sanitize your social media accounts

No matter how large or small your following may be, there is always going to be someone who reveals his or her distaste for something you’ve said or done through negative commentary. If you remove these comments, your audience may see this as your attempt to avoid certain issues, so it is best to come up with a sophisticated and well-thought-out response.

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6. Don’t solely rely on social media

Anyone can sound appealing online, so it’s crucial that you get out there and network. I understand the idea of interacting in person and not via the Web can be alarming, but it’s highly advantageous for the young professional.

Use social media as a tool to help you connect and share your personal and professional life, but don’t neglect the power of getting out in your community. This is the most effective way of letting people know who you are. Cheers and happy networking!

Alyse Faour is a Tampa native who graduated from Plant High School in 2010. She then went on to Florida State University and graduated with a B.A. in Editing, Writing and Media and Spanish. While at FSU, Alyse was a member of the all-female a cappella group, the AcaBelles. 

Upon graduation in 2014, she moved to San Jose, Costa Rica where she taught English for several months. Alyse is currently the Development Coordinator at Academy Prep Center of Tampa, a private middle school serving students who qualify for need-based scholarships.  She is passionate about public relations and development, and looks forward to her professional growth in Tampa. 

 

The Importance of Physical Evidence in Tort Claims

As a young lawyer, one of the central tenets of my career and its development has been involvement in professional associations, such as the American Bar Association. Such involvement has taken me across the country. Just last month, I found myself in beautiful San Diego, California for the ABA Midyear Meeting.

This month, I was honored to be published in a national newsletter for the ABA YLD TIPS Committee: Tort Trial and Insurance Practice. This publication has been the crowning achievement of my 2015-2016 leadership appointment. The following article was featured in the American Bar Association, Young Lawyers Division TIPS Winter 2016 Publication. You can read the entire publication here. Otherwise, I include the text of my article, below:

The Importance of Physical Evidence in Tort Claims

By Domenick Giovanni Lazzara*

Attorney at Law

The Law Offices of H.S. Stephen Lee, PA

Introduction

Last year, I found myself three months out from trial in a general negligence maritime claim. The firm I was with at the time represented two clients against a large and well known cruise line for injuries sustained when the grab bar in their handicap accessible stateroom came detached from the wall. This sudden and unexpected event brought about permanent injuries and a lawsuit approximately one year after the incident. The crux of our lawsuit was the cruise line’s negligence in failing to maintain grab bars ship wide, and especially, in its handicap accessible staterooms.

Three months from trial – while discussing the case with my managing partner – a lightbulb went off over both of our heads. We did not possess the grab bar. While we had requested hundreds of documents, a myriad of depositions, and countless interrogatories and admissions, we had not requested the actual grab bar. Luckily for us, we were only three months out from trial and still within the discovery cut-off. The next three months would be a race to compel the grab bar’s production, track down an “exemplar” bar from manufactures in California and Italy, and deliver the grab bars to our expert for analysis and testing.  It was a stressful process; one which would have been a lot less stressful had the grab bar been requested when the lawsuit was filed.  Consequently, I learned a valuable lesson: the importance of physical evidence in tort claims.

Step One: Identify the Physical Evidence Early On

The first step in assessing the importance of physical evidence in tort claims is identifying what that physical evidence is. Examples of physical evidence include clothing and footwear, the (defective) product that may have caused the injury, and the automobile in an automobile accident. In my case, this should have been the easy part: a shower grab bar. However, as the case unfolded and trial neared, we went down a long and intricate rabbit hole to identify the grab bar and its manufacturer. Identifying the grab bar took us to corporate representative depositions for the cruise line and the alleged manufacturer in California, international phone calls to Italy, hearings in Brevard County, and countless hours of internet research before we finally identified the correct grab bar and its manufacturer. I use this to illustrate why it is important to identify the physical evidence early in your case.

Identifying the physical evidence begins with client intake. Take the time to ask your client what caused his or her injury, and just as important, what could have caused or contributed to his or her injury, including what he or she was wearing and carrying at the time of the incident. In a premise liability action – for example – where a person slips and falls on a foreign substance left on the ground, the banana peel is just as important as the shoes your client was wearing at the time of the incident.

Step Two: Preserve the Physical Evidence

Spoliation of evidence is a powerful weapon in any tort claim. American Bar Association Rule 3.4 states:

“A lawyer shall not unlawfully obstruct another party’s access to evidence or unlawfully alter, destroy, or conceal a document or other material having potential evidentiary value. A lawyer shall not counsel or assist another person to do any such act…”

American Bar Association, Center for Professional Responsibility. (2016). Model Rules of Professional Conduct 3.4; see also 18 U.S.C. §1519.

In the case of physical evidence, spoliation occurs when that evidence is required for discovery but is subsequently destroyed or altered significantly. Depending on your jurisdiction, you may be entitled to an inference against the offending party. C.f. Fed.R.Civ.P. 37 (Failure to preserve electronically stored information may lead to, inter alia, the presumption that the lost information was unfavorable to the party). In Florida for example, “the spoliation can actually benefit that party through the imposition of sanctions, evidentiary presumptions, or even a separate cause of action for spoliation of evidence against the spoliator.” Spoliated Evidence: Better than the Real Thing? James T. Sparkman and John W. Reis, The Fla. Bar Journal, July/August, 1997.

In order to preserve your client’s spoliation claim you should first put the parties on notice by requesting they preserve the physical evidence. It is a two-way street. Either party can put the other party on notice by sending an evidence preservation letter after the claim is initiated; the sooner, the better. At the same time, once you have met with the client and identified the physical evidence, you should immediately take the requisite steps to identify that evidence and preserve it from day one.

Step Three: Request and Inspect the Physical Evidence

Once you have identified the physical evidence and taken the necessary steps to ensure the evidence is preserved, you should arrange for an inspection of the physical evidence. Usually, this requires placing the evidence in the hands of your expert. This can be arranged with opposing counsel informally or formally. Giving your expert time to inspect the physical evidence – and if necessary, prepare a report about your expert’s inspection – will give you one more weapon to use during settlement negotiations, and eventually, trial. Lastly, taking these steps early on will ensure that the actual evidence will be available at trial.

Conclusion

Failing to timely evaluate the import of physical evidence in tort claims could prove detrimental to your client’s case. As such, physical evidence should be identified at the outset of any tort claim. After identification, steps should be taken to preserve and request that physical evidence for inspection and presentation at trial. The failure to preserve such evidence may lead to an adverse inference; yet another reason to appreciate physical evidence from the outset of any tort claim.

*Domenick is a trial attorney with the Law Offices of H.S. Stephen Lee, PA in Tampa, Florida. His practice concentrates on civil litigation, specifically personal injury. One of his proudest accomplishments has been the proliferation of his legal blog, The Portrait of the Lawyer as a Young Man. You can read more at: https://domlawfl.wordpress.com/.

Clowin’ Out

“Everyone is a clown…But, only a few of us have the courage to put on the makeup!”

Of all the things I dreamed of becoming as a child, a clown was never one of them. Yet on Saturday, December 20, 2015, I became just that. Within minutes of arriving at Egypt Shrine, I transformed from Domenick Lazzara, attorney at law, to “Lil Bit”, a hobo themed clown and future member of the Fun ‘N Frolic Unit of Egypt Shrine, otherwise known at the Egypt Shrine Clowns.

The clowning profession is a little different than most in that we receive our rewards immediately upon performing. When you have made a connection with your audience, have seen the look of wonder in their eyes and created an escape from whatever pain, distress or sorrow that your audience has held within, you have received an award far better than anything you may be presented at any awards banquet or at any other time.

This is a far cry from the young lawyer, donning a business suit, tie, and lace-up dress shoes.  Nevertheless, the goal is the same: make the world a better place by touching, and hopefully changing, one life at a time. In this case, the families and children of Shriners Hospitals for Children.

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Shriners Hospitals for Children is “a 22-hospital pediatric healthcare system which provides excellent, no-cost medical care to children with orthopeadic problems or burn injuries.” On this particular Saturday, hundreds of outpatient children from Shriners Hospitals convened at the “Stu Lang Activities Building” with their families for Egypt Shriners Annual Christmas party. As Clowns, our mission was simple; connect with the audience and provide entertainment while the children waited to meet Santa and pick out their own presents from the stores of donated toys. Doing so required me to learn an invaluable lesson as a young lawyer.

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Sometimes in life, to really make a difference, you have to be able to step outside yourself and be somebody you never dreamed of being. For me, I had to become the exact opposite of the young lawyer for a day: a goofy, makeup wearing, hobo. The most oft repeated advice from my fellow Clowns was really quite simple, “Don’t be so serious!” And true to that advice, the less serious I became, the more joy I received in return from laughing children and smiling parents.

This Holiday season, I encourage you to step outside of yourself – to not be so serious. I urge you to find your inner clown. In the process of doing so, you will realize the true blessings in your life. And when you do, you too will see that this, this is the true meaning of the Holidays. 

With Love,

-DGL

 

Savor It

Earlier this month, I received an email and with it, a decision I had waited months to read. As my eyes darted across the page, a nervous anticipation flooded over me. That all too familiar feeling in the pit of my stomach grew stronger as I neared closer to the conclusion. The conclusion that would either confirm that feeling and multiply it a hundredfold, or switch it instantly into pure revelry.

I often reflect on the emotions that accompany being a young lawyer. It’s curious because one of the sobrieties is, in fact, the amount of sobriety that accompanies this career. In other words, the revelries are few and far between. This holds especially true in litigation.

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Litigation, or the art of resolving disputes through the court system, is very much a trial by fire. To achieve the best results for your client requires thinking “outside of the box.” It requires taking a certain amount of calculated risk and at times, making the argument that your opponent did not figure into her original analysis. In a career where its all been done before, a fresh approach can be the crucial difference between winning and losing. The litigator is the artist of the legal profession.

But like any good artist, there is a certain amount ordeal required before success will follow. It may take 1,000 sketches before that artists completes her masterpiece. Litigation is no different. It may take 1,000 arguments before finding the one that finally sticks. The litigator will spend months, sometimes years, working on a case. Drudging through discovery. Fighting in motion practice. Trying to stay one step ahead of the opponent at all times. Sad to say, there is very little positive reinforcement in the process. Pressing on requires a delicate balance of tenacity and faith.

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No matter how many times the litigator gets knocked down, she has to be willing to get back up again. No matter how hard she works without positive reinforcement, she has to have the requisite amount of faith to know victory is just over the hill. When victory does come, when she does finally reach the summit and feels the rays of attainment on her face, there is only one thing she must do: savor it. Breathe in every last ounce of that beautiful thing called winning.

IMG_2169Earlier this month, I found myself on the summit of one such hill. I smiled and laughed quietly to myself as the last period crossed the precipice where vision meets thought. In that moment, I knew exactly what I had to do. Before picking up the phone, before forwarding the email, before thinking about the next step.

I must savor it.

Dear Rick

Dear Rick:

Greetings from Honolulu, Hawaii! I am sorry it has been so long since I have written to you and my readers. As you predicted some weeks ago, it can be difficult to find the time to write when life is moves as fast as it does for us.

It was great seeing you and the family – thank you for the words of encouragement. Times like that remind me why it’s good to be back in the place where I grew up. It seems like just yesterday we were hovering over Aunt Martha’s table, excited to partake in a holiday feast. The times have change – it really does go by so fast – but those feelings of youthful bliss and comfort that only family can provide, remain.

IMG_1881 I write to you from Bogart’s Café, blocks away from Waikiki beach and downtown Honolulu. I arrived last Tuesday after spending the weekend in Seattle with a law school friend, Seth and his girlfriend Apple. They were kind enough to give us a guest room and show us how they live on the other coast. Seattle is such a fun town, reminiscent of New York. The architecture and scenery is some of the most unique I have encountered. I even experienced the typical Seattle day, complete with grey skies and slow, steady rain.

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Hawaii is quite the destination. I have always heard of people speak about Hawaii as this mythical place that you have to go to at least once. I finally understand what they have been talking about this entire time. I agree and add that it is also a place I would like to return. The scenery is breathtaking and awe-inspiring, with grand views of the Pacific Ocean waiting around every corner. I will never forget the first time I stuck my foot in the water and realized I was now on the other side of the world. Most importantly, I was blessed to witness true love in its most pure form when I watched my best friend Julio and his wife Eirlan pledge themselves to each other for eternity as the waves steadily crashed into the shore below.

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As a young lawyer, I can tell you this vacation has been extremely rewarding. Its moments like these that make all of the sacrifice and hard work well worth it. It is therapeutic to be able to disconnect from one part of life, and connect with another. At the same time, I must admit I am ready to go home soon and get back to the practice of law.

Well I guess I have rambled on for long enough. I can hear the waves calling me back. I hope Florida is treating you well. I look forward to seeing you and the family again soon.

Sincerely Yours,

Domenick

Doing What You Love

Sunday is always strange because you wake up relieved that you still have one day left, but sad because you only have one day left. The anticipation of Monday begins to creep up when you first wake up and realize tomorrow is Monday. It gradually builds as the day progresses until Sunday evening arrives and your day feels a lot like reaching the end of a milkshake. Equal parts satisfaction and regret. With nothing but air in the straw and that familiar, sucking sound of emptiness, you realize it is time to give it up and put the cup down. Tomorrow is Monday.

alg_barack_obama_milkshake As a young lawyer, I am one of the lucky few in this American workforce that is blessed to love going to work. According to a 2014 job satisfaction survey conducted by the Conference Board, 52.3% of Americans are unhappy at work. Forbes reports that: “Every year since 1987, the Board has run a job satisfaction survey. Nearly three decades ago, 61.1% of workers said they liked their jobs. That number has slid over time, reaching an all-time low in 2010 following the Great Recession, when only 42.6% of workers said they were satisfied in their jobs. It has been ticking back up since then but rose only .4% since last year.” See “Most Americans are Unhappy at Work” Susan Adams. June 20, 2014.

Those are scary statistics when you consider that most people spend more time working than anything else. A Gallup report released shortly after the Board’s survey also shows that the average time worked by full-time employees has increased to 46.7 hours a week. Combing the two, you get nearly a full-extra eight-hour day of unhappiness for the majority of Americans!

I can thank my parents for saving me from that majority. My mother and father always preached to my brother and me to “find something you love doing because you will spend the rest of your life doing it.” Those words could not ring more true lately because I do fall into the group of Americans working more than 40 hours a week. Thankfully though, those hours are not unhappy ones.

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No matter how you slice it – work is still work. And this work especially carries a unique level of responsibility. As lawyers, we are tasked daily with solving other people’s problems. While the stress from not performing this essential task is ever-present, nevertheless Saturdays and Sundays do offer much needed solace. And with it, time to recharge and prepare again for Monday’s challenges.