Education Beyond the Books

I was sitting in court recently next to a very seasoned attorney waiting for our respective cases to be called.  There was another attorney at the bench pleading his case in front of the judge.  The facts and the legal issues in the case being presented at the bench were not favorable for the defendant.  The attorney was left little more than to try to convince the judge that the defendant was a good enough person to deserve a break. The defense was reduced to a plea for mercy.

I looked to the attorney sitting next to me and said “I wonder if people realize that begging for mercy on behalf of a client is part of lawyering?” He replied in a matter of fact tone, “they don’t teach that part in law school.”

It’s been said that law school doesn’t have much of anything to do with passing the bar exam and passing the bar exam doesn’t have much of anything to do with practicing law.  Yet, that is the progression of qualifying events to be licensed to practice law.  After the legal education and passing the rigorous exam, you can be qualified to represent others. There is very little that can be taught about the people part of the practice of law, however.

You can’t give away what you don’t have so in order to zealously argue for mercy on behalf of someone else, you would be best suited to recognize the mercy you have received yourself.  An advocate that has realized their frailty and depended on Advocacy can draw the distinction between a bad act and a bad person.

There is so much common sense and practical appreciation that should go into the honor of representing the interests of others.  That honor requires a posture of honor.  The ability to offer honor is not a skill that can be taught.  That is a character trait that is instilled through experience and/or imparted through heritage.

That is true beyond the practice of law.  In whatever field we practice, the technical nuance of the particular specialty is secondary to the investment of character into the task.  When we are able to recognize the needs of customers, co-workers, supervisors and others because we appreciate what Another has offered us, then we will be a True professional.

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