Under Analysis: Time, time, summer time

Mark Levison, The Levison Group

It’s summer again. I’ve logged in a number of them at this point. Time is an elusive thing — you can’t stop it, hold it, touch it or even adequately describe it. We know what it does. It turns young people older, it changes opinions, it imparts wisdom to some, it disappoints most and rewards others. All we can do is live it as it comes to each of us, a moment at a time. Trying to do our best with what we’re given, not knowing how things will turn out, or how much of this precious commodity is going to be allocated to us and to those around us, we move ahead hoping for the best. It’s hard not thinking of myself as young, but when I see the lawyers I’ve been practicing with for around 30 years now, and how they are aging, I guess some of them might think I’m getting old too.

Summer is a traveling season. My wife Cheryl and I went to Denver last week to visit my youngest daughter Lila and to spend time with my stepson Patrick. I wasn’t able to influence any of my three daughters to become lawyers like their father and mother, but Patrick has just finished his second year in law school. He wasn’t sure about starting a legal career at a time when the law business was looking somewhat less than promising, but his mother is very proud to tell our friends that he is first in his class, so he ought to be just fine. He went to undergraduate school at Colorado University in Boulder where he met his fiancée. Patrick and Laura returned to Colorado last week to pick a mountain venue for their wedding ceremony. When I got married — the first time — destination weddings really hadn’t been invented. As is the case with Lila, once you go to school in Colorado, it tends to holds you there.

Lila is also doing exceptionally well in a master’s program. She plans on teaching in a bilingual primary school. It was a heartwarming and tearful experience for me to watch her teach the children in her classroom. While my suggestions that my daughters might think about a legal career were never really aggressively pushed by me, nor given much consideration by them, the oldest, Mariah, became a professional mediator without a legal degree. She has recently become the first non-lawyer to be hired as an adjunct law professor at the University of Minnesota where she designs and teaches mediation programs, and she is toying with running for the state legislature.

It is a comforting feeling to watch our kids finding their places as they move through time. There’s often a special relationship between a father and a daughter. Although, I like to imagine I am the root from which all of my daughters have sprung, the results are so completely different and unique that it is a little confounding. Perhaps it’s because of the different fertilizer time has spread upon their various and disparate life events. Of course, the new experience of having boys — through Cheryl — is a very different phenomenon. It’s a guy thing.

Shortly after the Denver trip I traveled to our local Bench and Bar conference — a meeting of judges and trial lawyers. Many of the lawyers who attend this annual event are of the younger variety. They spend some time in a relaxed social setting, getting to know judges that they will likely have cases in front of someday. The conference also provides the type of educational seminars that are required each year for continuing licensure. As the senior member of our state’s Board of Governors, and the former chair of its Special Committee on Lawyer Advertising, I was asked to put on an ethics seminar on attorney advertising — in the form of a debate with the state’s biggest lawyer advertiser. It was spirited to say the least. He and I have very different perspectives on the role of advertising and how the right and desire to advertise one’s own law business should interact with the broader question of what is important to the profession, or whether that should be a consideration at all. I spoke about some of the key cases on lawyer advertising and the rights of state bars to police and limit advertisement, and quoted warnings that had been voiced by some of our Supreme Court judges concerning the results of lawyer advertising. Some of those concerns were about the danger advertising poses to the unsophisticated consumer. My opponent’s argument was that the consumers are sophisticated, or can be educated through the advertising state bars limit. In preparing for the CLE I spoke with my friend Tom who mused that his father, a judge, had lived his entire legal career in a world in which lawyer advertising was unheard of, whereas his lawyer son has never known a world without it. There’s our old friend, Father Time, again.

Time certainly brings change, for good or bad. Some tend to blindly prefer the way things were when they were younger, almost no matter what the subject. Others blindly proclaim all change progress. The truth is in the middle.

The optimist in me believes most changes are movements forward, but not all of them. Advertising is just one of the changes that has dramatically altered the legal landscape over the last few decades. Technology is another. At the conference there was talk about the positive aspects of real time transcription appearing on a judge’s computer screen and the ability to pull up cases on the screen as arguments are being conducted. There was also talk about life in an electronic world of communication, and whether it has diminished interpersonal skills and a true ability to communicate. It may be easier to be rude to our opponent in an e-mail than face to face, and time spent discussing an issue on a keyboard may not result in the same richness of experience as time spent looking an opponent in the eye.

For some, summer is not the time to worry about the future of the profession. For others, there is never a time more suited for such concerns than the present — no matter what the time of year.

Like most summers, this one should be fun, and will not last. In time, it will be fall.

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Under Analysis is a nationally syndicated column. Mark Levison is a member of the law firm Lashly & Baer. You can reach the Levison Group in care of this paper or by e-mail at comments@levisongroup.com.
© 2013 Under Analysis L.L.C.

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