Along with arguments of whether this is the beginning or the end of the decade (it’s the end by the way, we count 1 to 10, not 0 to 9) came an influx of advice from social media legal scholars advising you to write the full 2020 as a date on documents instead of just ’20. Most of these innovative thinkers got their law degrees from Google rather than an ABA accredited school, so take their advice with a grain of salt.
Anticipation accompanied by anxiety comes with anything new, and a new year is no exception. Nothing inspires more hope than a clean slate. On the other hand, there are few things more terrifying than a clean sheet of paper when a brief (or newspaper column) is due. Except maybe facing a bear- grizzly, not gummy.
I am not big on making New Year’s resolutions. In my law practice, actual deadlines are much more compelling than illusory goals. I still haven’t completed my 2019 resolution, which was to complete the promises I made to myself in 2018. I have a friend who resolves to swear less each year. Her record accomplishment to date is mid-February. It has been a long January for her already. Hope may spring eternal, but reality is a pessimist.
Losing weight remains the most invoked and least accomplished resolution for most of us. I was limiting myself to only one dessert (on my plate, at a time) during the holiday season in anticipation of stepping on the scales this year. A smart woman told me that I was missing the point because calories between Christmas and New Year are less important than the ones between January 1st and Christmas. I took that as inspiration to get a second cookie. Maybe I did miss the point.
January is the only time of year when I consider applying for a judgeship. Not because I want to do that work as I clearly lack the patience. I simply covet the robes for their slimming effect. Camouflage takes many forms, and a black tent goes with everything I own.
Fitness equipment and gym memberships have their best sales in January. The gyms will be empty again around March. Fitness equipment will likewise be relegated to dust collecting duty. If you are in the market, I recommend an elliptical trainer. You can hang coats and hats on the upright arms instead of just pants, which is all a treadmill will accommodate. Trust me on this one.
From a personal injury lawyer’s perspective, there is not a lot I can do in my office to change our business. My 5-year business plan is to develop a 3-year plan, the same as it always is.
We try to be vigilant for all of our clients year in and year out. After 3 decades in practice, my clients’ challenges remain the same- how will they deal with their medical issues and how are they going to pay their bills when an injury forces them out of work. I spend more time each year counseling clients and fighting with health insurance companies to get their bills paid. I may have skipped a few days in law school, but I am pretty sure none of this was covered.
One decidedly troubling trend that continues in 2020 is the erosion of the rule of law and lawyers’ place in society. Not that lawyers have ever been popular if lawyer jokes are an indication. As a profession, we have had a hand in shaping public opinion. I have complained enough about the shift from law as a profession to that of a business and won’t do so again here. That ship has drifted out of port if it hasn’t truly sailed.
Attacks on the rule of law are a bigger problem. Our government recently killed an Iranian general via drone strike. We are not at war with Iran, officially at least, and the act can only be called an assassination. Assassination of foreign officials is against our law, if not our constitution. Still, public opinion is mixed as to whether the killing was wrong. Unfortunately, much of the opinion is based on the musing of internet constitutional scholars and memes shared on social media. The internet promised unlimited access to knowledge but progressively delivers much less.
Sadly, but not unexpectedly, the differences in opinion are more tribal than philosophical. Laws aren’t always black and white, but when one’s interpretation of an action is based upon which tribe the actor was in rather than whether it was right or wrong, our system and our republic’s very foundation are unsteady. It would be nice if our country would resolve to make a real change and become less tribal and more informed. Laws rarely suit convenience. As Sir Thomas More said, “I’d give the Devil the benefit of law, for my own safety’s sake!” This is more important than a real change in my waistline. I am hopeful for change. Hope indeed springs eternal.
©2020 under analysis llc. under analysis is a nationally syndicated column. Spencer Farris is the founding partner of The S.E. Farris Law Firm in St Louis, Missouri. He hums the Beatles more often than he quotes Robert Bolt. Comments or criticisms about this column may be sent c/o this newspaper or directly to Under Analysis via email at email@example.com.