Under Analysis- Gift shopping, gift wrapping, gift giving and the lawyers who take the blame

   It is December of 2010.  The years have passed.   It is inarguable that I am older than the majority of attorneys I run into in the courthouse.  I cannot dispute I have more years than those sitting across the closing table these days.   Still, generally, I remain adept at vanquishing any thought that I may actually be “old” from my brain. Recently, however, that skill has been stretched to its breaking point.  I blame the apparent break down of the law of comparisons in the modern era for this travesty.
   On my recent Thanksgiving travels, for example, I sat beside a twenty-seven year old corporate attorney.  We were en route to Buffalo, from St Louis, via Detroit.  The counselor beside me was genuinely relieved that our trip was “uneventful.”  She used that term because the first leg from the Arch City to Detroit only required forty-five minutes to check in and an hour and ten minutes to clear security and then  left only twenty minutes late.  She further applied that descriptor because the layover in the Motor City was only one hour and twenty minutes and the flight out of Detroit to Buffalo left only fifteen minutes late.   As a result, the trip time from airport to airport was a crisp six hours --- much better than the nearly eight hours her last trip had taken on the same route.   Studying her facial expression I determined she was serious.  It was then that, given her age, I realized she wasn’t yet flying in the early 1980’s when the same airport to airport trip involved no security lines and no connecting flights and could be completed in less than an hour and a half. 
   As we each awaited our respective bags in the airport, the woman of law began talking about her upcoming visit to Canada in a similar calm voice.   The cousin she was visiting in Buffalo for the holiday had told her that the wait to cross the bridge between the United States and Canada was now less than 55 minutes, due to the use of passport barcode scanning equipment and additional border officers. This, apparently, was hardly a wait at all to the neophyte.   Again,  I realized she simply had never attempted to cross the border “back in the day”  when no passports were needed and extensive security searches were performed only randomly and not on every person  –  days  when I’d dash cross the border for a sandwich spending no more than five minutes to get across the international line.   Our conversations made my mind wander to similar changes that have occurred over the years in the legal profession. I realized that there are a myriad of things that we who remember the “good old days”  think take too long in today’s practice, or involve too many obstacles, or too many rules, but which are accepted by the newer practitioners as the norm because it is all they’ve ever known. (Things such as e-discovery retention policies, dual language court filings, redacting “sensitive” information about minors from federal filings – things that I admit I rely on younger attorneys to remember to do.)  
   As my mind wandered to such details of the modern law practice, the young corporate counsel typed away on her iPad, while listening to her iPod.   Seeing the technology in action caused my mind to wander yet again, this time to a conversation I’d had during my first year as an attorney with an “older” lawyer.  He had practiced back in the days before central air conditioning and photocopiers.  He swore that the invention of these two conveniences had increased the burdens on attorneys more than any other thing.   Before air conditioning, he explained, you had to work with your windows open and the winds breezing through your office.   If documents got too long, you couldn’t keep the pages from blowing around your office, so people would end their discourse sooner.   Similarly, back in the days before photocopiers, anytime you had to change something you’d written, you’d have to re-write the entire document and then use carbon paper or manual reproduction to make your copies – again, briefs and agreements stayed shorter.    I remember that I’d chuckled, thinking he was kidding as I returned to my office to continue drafting my sixty five page memorandum in opposition to summary judgment.   I knew what I knew, and I was fine with it.   I glanced over as my one-time travelling companion grabbed her bags – checked through at a cheerful twenty-three dollars a bag -- gave a brief wave, and disappeared out of the airport content that her travels had been without incident.
   That’s when it dawned on me.   Sometimes, happiness is simply having nothing to which to compare your life.

© 2010 under analysis LLC. Under Analysis is a nationally syndicated column of the Levison Group. You may send comments or criticisms to the Levison Group c/o this newspaper or direct via email to comments@levisongroup.com



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