Those of you who have followed this space over the years (Thank you, by the way. More on that in a minute,) know that I am a bit of a holiday scold. I call myself a humbug with some pride. I used to say Grinch, but the folks who own that trademark asked me to stop- the G fella thought the comparison was unfavorable to him. I pled my case of course, but the conversation broke down when I said their namesake was no more a doctor than Sanders was a colonel. Oh well, you can’t please everyone.
This year, I have vowed to try something different. It hasn’t been easy. Current events make celebration of the Pilgrims being welcomed to a feast as immigrants easy pickings for a cynical heart. Ditto a story about folks in the Middle East needing a place to escape the elements and whatnot. But I am not going to take the bait. Instead, I am going to take the high road, foreign though it may be to me. I am going to give some public thanks.
1. Our imperfect and incomparable civil justice system.
Last week I visited Independence Hall, the very birthplace of our republic, and saw original versions of the Founding Fathers’ proclamations of their intentions. No, not the political interpretations of the Supreme Court, but their actual words. Even before the right to trial by jury made it into our constitution, it first served as a grievance for our Declaration of Independence. The English jury trial was so important to the colonists that being deprived of it made the bearing of arms the only choice.
Trial lawyers often complain that juries get things wrong, usualy after we lose a case. Still, our civil justice system endures. Year after year, special interest groups convince Congress to limit the right through damage caps, restrictive rules, and protection that groups buy and paid for, all the while feigning deference to original intent of the Founding Fathers. I say here what I sincerely say to jurors after every trial: Our system, though flawed, is the best yet conceived, and gives us a level of peace that other nations envy.
2. The internet, electronics and gadgets. And unplugging them.
I remember a time when lawyers did their research with these big papery things called “books.” They were kept in musty places called libraries, and if the particular book you wanted was not on its shelf, it was game over for research. Now, my go to line is “We don’t have to guess. ‘Okay google.'” My phone or perhaps even my smartwatch gives me the answer to most any question in seconds.
Ditto for legal research. There was once a company that owned legal research with a system that made finding a relevant case easy. Perhaps not easy, but easier than the method that came before it. Now that company has been bought by another company, merged into a third, and made irrelevant by the internet.
The only thing better than the internet and gadgets is the ability to unplug them. I can work anywhere with an electrical plug these days, and I get undeserved credit and much deserved quiet when I choose not to. The constant connection makes being completely disconnected sweeter. I intend to enjoy that more next year. Really.
3. My friends, my health and the health of my friends.
Gentle Reader, I am thrilled by the notion that you and I are together every month. I never hear from most of you, unless there are truly only a dozen in your ranks. It was moving when I got your notes after my furry friend Judge passed. I imagine each month that you might laugh when I meant to be funny, and groan when I miss the mark.
I am grateful for my local friends as well. It is no secret that most of my favorite folk are lawyers. Over the years, that list has grown to include lawyers that started as adversaries over the years. Hard to have imagined that my most strident opponents would become friends, but they have. If a man is measured by the diversity of his friends, I am fortunate to have a lot.
Finally, I am grateful for my health. My clients are all folks who have been hurt, and have had health taken from them, some permanently. They don’t deserve it anymore than I deserve to be relatively healthy. I know very well how quickly life can change, and I am grateful that, in a profession where mental and physical health are fleeting, I have been fortunate.
There you have it. Curmudgeon me will be back after the holidays no doubt, but for now I am basking in holiday joy. I hope your season is equally joyful. Or more so.
©2015 under analysis llc. under analysis is a nationally syndicated column of the Levison Group. Spencer Farris is the founding partner of The S.E. Farris Law Firm in St Louis, Missouri. He needs less turkey this year, but will eat more just to be on the safe side. Comments or criticisms about this column may be sent c/o this newspaper or directly to the Levison Group via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.