Looking at law through the eyes of my daughter, Violet
Violet is my two-year old daughter. She and her cadre of toddling cohorts are busy soaking up and processing information about all facets of their ever-expanding world. Violet came to life as a clean slate, and it is remarkable to behold the knowledge and attitudes that already populate her brain.
At this stage, she has little conception of what I do for work, other than knowing that she does not like it when I have to go to the office. Yet the time is not far off when she will begin to delve into the specifics of my job. It will be a formative experience for her, one that I hope to handle with aplomb.
Violet will be inundated with notions of the legal profession from popular culture and from her friends. Although the law is a putatively respectable livelihood, I suspect that external inputs will create a negative impression of my profession in Violet’s mind. Thus it is particularly important that I, as an attorney and her father, behave as a role model to show Violet and her peers the positive aspects of the law.
Lawyers Help People
Rather than inherit a mistrust of the system, I want Violet to see that lawyers help people, whether on a pro bono basis or otherwise. Through my own example, I hope that she will realize that attorneys are hard-working and integral members of a community. By treating other lawyers as I wish to be treated, she will learn that the law can be an honorable and compassionate profession.
Her development will be best served by comprehending the harsh realities of the system. Instead of fitting neatly within an hour-long story arc, it is important for her to know that legal conflicts are drawn-out affairs with real costs and consequences and very little drama that is worth watching. Of course, it would be flattering in the short-term for Violet to view me as a silver-tongued courtroom dynamo similar to many characters on television. But in the long run, I prefer to teach her that the fleeting moments of courtroom glory are the result of many long hours and years of often tedious preparation.
Violet’s view and understanding of the legal world is important to me, but I am often even more concerned about the influence that the system has on her modes of resolving conflicts. There is a complete disconnect between the method of dispute resolution that is taught to children and the legal system that exists today. Our system generally rewards those that are aggressive and obstinate and who view every interaction with a zero-sum mentality. This is in direct contradiction to the values of tolerance, patience and cooperation that we strive so hard to instill in our youth.
We teach our kids to use their words to heal and to explore the boundaries of the conflict. We encourage open and honest communication to share hurt feelings and talk through a suitable resolution. When a dispute arises in the adult world, many are quick to resort to name-calling and duck behind the cover of lawyers to trade one-sided and unreasonable sound bites in an effort to intimidate the other side into compliance. If we wish our children to be little zen masters, then we cannot act like rabid dogs, because our children pick up on our cues, to an extent that is even a little alarming (and the reason for the $5 swear jar in my household).
An interesting thought exercise is to picture a courtroom scene — the stern judge, the grizzled and gruff defense counsel, the too-eager prosecutor or plaintiff’s attorney, the arrogant witness on the stand. Then, in your mind, replace them with all with children. If it makes you cringe to think about the new scene, about a toddler lambasting another toddler with such mean spirit that the latter is reduced to tears, then ask yourself why it is acceptable for adults to act that way. it is impossible to teach our kids the proper way to go through life if our actions do not match our speech. If we cannot commit to reforming the way that we resolve our issues, then our mistakes are doomed to be repeated by our offspring’s generation.
On the individual level, I am motivated to pursue my practice in a way that best encourages and teaches my daughter. As for the legal collective, if each lawyer acts as they want their child (or wife or dog or anima-tronic robot companion) to see them, then we will be in great shape indeed.
T.J. Voboril is a partner at Reynolds, Kalamaya & Voboril LLC, a local law firm, and the owner and mediator at Voice Of Reason Dispute Resolution. For more information, please contact Voboril at 970-306-6456, firstname.lastname@example.org or visit http://www.rkvlaw.com.