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Vail Daily column: Naked greed affects us all

Greed is an emotion that we are conditioned to abhor and rightly so. But it is a complex part of our humanity that touches even the most saintly among us. Snowsports enthusiasts (I hesitate to use the overarching term “skier” so as not to exclude the more diverse community) are particularly guilty of this sin. An 18-inch powder dump is not enough to satisfy — we are almost biologically compelled to need more and more and more.

This is a species of avarice that is outright celebrated, not just by Gordon Gekko-types but even by those identified as liberal, or socialistic, or communal. Yet the same cupidity for snow that is so championed is derided when in the form of capitalistic plundering of the natural and human resources upon which ski resorts are built. Therein lies the contradiction of greed.



LEGAL GREED

The dichotomy of avarice is no less apparent in the legal world. Naked greed is pervasive, but most human quality is one of the shaky foundations girding the legal system. The crumbly footing of greed is nonetheless supported by a bedrock of altruism: Those tireless legal servants helping those with limited means defend or vindicate themselves. Of course, not all lawyers are purely saints or sinners. Long-dormant greed may rise to the surface occasionally. An attorney renowned for his flashy appetites may achieve a measure of karmic balance by devoting his energies toward a challenging pro bono case.



Legal greed is at its most sinister when the avaricious predilections of the client are joined by those of his representation. In a nightmare feedback loop, the unscrupulous attorney and client reassure each other that their course of action is appropriate or, worse, just. They push for more and more, oblivious to the ludicrous nature of their demands. This situation is at its most alarming when such attorney and client find themselves in what appears to them to be the catbird’s seat. Exploiting their perceived advantage, they attempt to press under their opposition with obstinate refusal to consider any outcome other than one that enriches them the most. When tasked with opposing such an unfortunately dynamic duo, it is all I can do not to shake with a melange of rage, frustration and sadness.

Sometimes the greed of a client pulls an otherwise benevolent lawyer into the fray, duped into believing either that the client’s intentions are noble or that the lawyer can change the client’s essential character. But this is no excuse — any attorney worth the oath that he swore should be able to shake off or redirect his client’s covetous yearnings. Even my 2-year-old daughter knows that it is not acceptable to have “the gimmies.”

Infinitely more difficult is for an innocent client to overcome the influence of a rapacious lawyer. The power imbalance often found in the attorney-client relationship can lead to situations where the client feels that there is no choice but to follow the advice of the counselor, no matter how distasteful it may be. Lawyers occupy a station of trust and it is a massive responsibility that can easily be abused. When determining a course of action, the decision should always be based on what is in the client’s best interest. However, all too often, considerations of increased billable hours may lead the attorney to recommend filing an unnecessary motion or continuing litigation when settlement is clearly the optimum outcome.



IGNORANCE IS NO SOLUTION

Accumulation of wealth for its own sake is an issue that has plagued humans since we achieved sentience. I am not so naive as to believe that it will ever be eradicated. Yet as with every problem, ignorance is no solution. Awareness is the first step to progress. If we attune ourselves more to the trappings and evidence of greed, then we will be better equipped to avoid its grip. Instead of exalting corporations or individuals whose stated intention is hegemony, we should be more inclined to celebrate those working toward harmony. Attorneys who exhibit the telltale signs of esurience can be shunned in favor of those truly dedicated to the causes of relative justice.

As to the insatiable hunger for powder turns, perhaps I am too close to this intractable “problem” to devise a solution.

T.J. Voboril is a partner at Reynolds, Kalamaya & Voboril LLC, a local law firm, and the owner-mediator at Voice Of Reason Dispute Resolution. For more information, contact Voboril at 970-306-6456, tj@rkvlaw.com or visit http://www.rkvlaw.com.


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