The respect of money

During the past month something quite remarkable happened.  It started off when I (along with my associate Mimy) secured a $2.5M verdict for a client injured by a truck driver.  A few weeks later, a long time and good friend, Vicky Vreeland, secured a $19M verdict in an insurance fraud and conspiracy case.  A week later, an even longer time and good friend, Lori Haskell, secured a $1.3M verdict in a slip and fall case against Metro.  One thing I rarely talk about is money.  But I am making an exception here because, three multi million dollar verdicts, obtained in the span of a month by  female lawyer friends, is phenomenal.  I’m hoping it represents a paradigm shift.

I have heard this phrase many times, always said with the utmost goodwill, sincerity and  belief that it was an outright compliment.  It goes like this:  You are one of the best women trial attorneys in the state.    My friends Lori, Vicky, and other sister lawyers, have been told the same thing.  Implicit in this compliment of course, is the supposition that women aren’t quite as good as the men so it wouldn’t be fair to hold us to the same standards.  And while we smile and say thank you, we all think the same thing:  we just want to be one of the best trial lawyers in the state.

snake river

The last deposition ends around 4 and I run out the door.  Down the road across the bridge.  On one side of the river (where we’ve been) is Lewiston Idaho.  The otherside is Clarkston Washington.   I’m thinking that I will be running along the river, and I am.  But I’m on an elevated path, perched on top of a berm created for years when the river runs high.  It’s  a low year so I’m tottering about 20 feet above the river bed.  Aside from one garter snake, two peter rabbits, some birdies, 3 bikers and 1 other jogger, the trail is deserted.  Where is everyone!   I go past the stinky pulp plant (Lewiston side), turn around and go past the “Port of Clarkston” complete with a river barge positioned under a ramp coming out from a big silo.  There are a few boats with people fishing but they ignore me as I pass by.  I know nothing about the flora of the area but it looks like bramble bushes, dried up long grass, and the type of yellow weedy flowers that I used to be allergic to when I was a kid.  Sorry, but it is not exactly spectacular.   What I like best are the hills that the towns are built into.  They stretch for as far as I can see, lining the edges of the river like a giant ruffle.

eat pray love

Ok, I resist reading this book because it just seems a bit too “touchy feely” even for me.  But there it is, beckoning to me on an airport store shelf.  Plus I love Julia Roberts and have every intention of seeing the movie…so…  The author, Elizabeth Gilbert takes us thru the traumas of her self absorption.  From her neurotic yet intelligent viewpoint, she takes us on a journey of self enlightenment that sometimes jars my nerves so greatly that I skip a page .  She has such a restless tortured spirit for so much of the book that I feel myself becoming aggravated.  Still, she is so vulnerable in laying bare her angst, that I give her points for the sheer audacity of coming forward with it all. 

The story begins with the demise of her marriage, which she does not really describe.  I could see doing this if there were children involved – you would want to protect them.  But there are no children.  Considering this is a “tell all”, it makes no sense to skip the details of the dying marriage.  After all, that is the seminal event that spurs the one year hiatus to Italy, India and Bali.  Talking about episodes of “crying on the bathroom floor” doesn’t count.  All in all, there are thought provoking moments. And I generally liked the style of her self-deprecating writing – though there were too many metaphores.  I’ll give it a B.

loosening up

I’m speaking today at a seminar for AAJ in Chicago.   I’ve been watching the speakers and have a co-presenter, Tony.  They are all whip smart and articulate.  But there is one behavior pattern they share.  They are so stern faced.  So serious.  They believe in what they are saying.  They want to communicate their position, their passion.  Their words are spoken emphatically and with precision.   The audience mirrors back the gravity of the occasion. 

I looked at the dress code last night – the speakers are supposed to be in suits.   I come close.  I have on these great J-Brand black stretch jeans (basically leggings) coupled with a white floaty button down funky T that I got at Anthropologie, topped with a (nod to propriety) black jacket and just for good measure – gold high heel sandals.  I think that’s a good suit.  Why do we have to wear “suits” when we’re not in court.   Why do we have to be so prim and proper and business like.  Over the years I’ve been nagged to cut my hair or try to straighten it or pull it back.  But I wear it in the most riotous fashion because it makes the statement: don’t typecast me!

We are talking about ethics during our hour.  This is a mandatory requirement.  Usually people take naps (or go for long bathroom breaks).   Tony stays in lawyer character leaving me the freedom to be the “color commentator”.  I love that role.   I run around from person to person with my microphone and tell them I’m “Just like Sally Jesse Raphael.”  Before long, we have the whole room talking, wondering, questioning, thinking…and having fun.

rubber neck

I can’t believe I don’t fall today.  My head is spinning this way and that when I should be looking for potholes.  I’m in the Theater District with the old fashioned flashing marquees on every block.  The lake – as in The Lake – is about half a mile from the hotel.  I go thru the Millenium Park with its fields, tennis courts, and groomed perfection.  The Lake looks like the ocean.  It is a bit windy so there are waves and you cannot see to the other side.  I run past the aquarium and museums, turn back and the city view — well.  I love Seattle, but it is such a little gem compared to Chicago.  I change direction and visit the Navy Pier before heading back.  Everywhere I turn there’s a beautiful building.  Gigantic pieces of public art dot the open spaces.  Have you ever seen the ampitheater in the Park?  I want to hear a concert there.  It’s rush hour as I trot back to the hotel, weaving in and out of the crowds.  It’s amazing I can run at all, but the sidewalks are as wide as streets thank goodness.  What a grand place!

The Girl with the dragon tattoo

This book got better and better so that by page 300 I couldn’t wait to turn the page.    It played out in my mind like a movie – more focused on plot twists  than in depth character development.  There are two heroes – Blomkvist the polyanna reporter and Salander the social outcast rogue investigator.  I wasn’t prepared for the sadism since I didn’t read any reviews.  So be warned – it is gross in places.  Which of course makes it even more scintillating.   Once the main conflict resolves the story line fizzles out to a rather unsatisfying ending.  Still it was remarkably entertaining.   I’ll give it a B+.

The Vagrants

China in the 1970s was not a particularly joyous place.  At least not for the parents of Gu Shan who begin the day (and the novel) girding themselves for her execution.  I decide to read this book because it and the author (Yiyun Li) have been given good reviews.  There are substories within the main story – a cast of odd  characters including an unfortunate 12 year old girl who when in utero, was the  recipient of a brutal beating by Gu Shan (a political dissenter).  The girl is twisted physically, though quite astute.   There is a little boy and his pup, a street sweeping couple that rescued discarded girl infants, a radio announcer and her besotted husband.   Alas, there is no happy ending for anyone.  But it did transport me to a world of deprivation and unfairness that helps put life in better perspective.   I’ll give it a B.

The Art of Racing in the Rain

Sometimes in opening statement, I will “be” anything from an inanimate object to a character in the case.   The main question I hear is – how can you do that without seeming “too over the top?”

This novel by Garth Stein, is moderated by a dog named Enzo.  It is not a children’s story.  Enzo tells the very human tale of a young man and his family.   Not once do you feel that Enzo is a gimmick.  I’ll give it a B.

communing with nature

At the last minute the sun makes an appearance so I run out the doors of the Davenport Hotel and head towards the river.  Spokane has the wonderful “Centennial Trail” that winds its way from the city through Gonzaga to the out and beyond. As I jog into the country (well, it is country-like in places) I feel like little red riding hood venturing into the forest with all its little creatures.  I see robins, ducks, and these critters that look like big fat giant squirrels with tails  like bottle brushes.  I have no idea what they are.  I’m sweaty and happy as I head back through Gonzaga, looking at the swollen river and bopping to my music.  Out of the corner of my eye I see a large gaggle of geese on the lawn complete with a crowd of gosslings.  Oh how beautiful, I think.  I am one with nature!  At which point, a bit of something catches my attention.  It is the biggest goose of all, running flat out towards me with its beak open (apparently yelling at me but my music has drowned it out).  It is so close I can see down its throat.  Its eyes are sparkling with total hostility.  I am fueled with fear and bolt away from that mean goose.  I haven’t run that fast since, well, I don’t think since ever.

My office

I spend more time in my office (awake) than any other room in the world. I have two computers, one of which is currently playing ’70s funk music. There is  cool artwork on the walls and I will find myself fixating on different colors or shapes throughout the day. I have no paper files hogging space so my few books can breath alongside pictures of my girls and Ed. There are two bronze busts of Brandeis which were gifts from my trial lawyers association, and two plaques but otherwise the rest of the certificates are buried somewhere. I have a palm tree that has lived with me since I joined this firm in 2004 and usually there’s an orchid perched on the corner above one of the monitors. There’s also a little bin of doggie toys and the bones up high on a shelf. There are a few things that I could use to make this room complete: 1) a treadmill with place for a computer so I could type and surf while walking or I could go for a run late at night – now that would be excellent; 2) a stair stepper; 3) a big bean bag – I used to have a small purple one but it was made for an infant; 4) sliding panels that I could open on each of my walls so I could talk to Kevin and Mimy without having to pound on the walls or buzz them; 5) a 60″ computer monitor/LCD screen built into the wall. I might have to move a picture but it would be worth it; 6) a silent refrigerator – that way I wouldn’t have to share with everyone – very selfish and not green I know – I probably can abandon this; 7) a scanner that works – I got a cheap one and it lasted about a month; 8) tons of candles – apparently we can’t have any candles due to fire hazard which is unfortunate because it’s hard to set a “mood” with fluorescent lights; 9) a small locker for my work out clothes which are currently on the floor; and 10) a walk in closet would be nice.

Check out a recent interview by Super Lawyers about my blog. Yes, I'm a lawyer. But I'm also a human being. I have a doggie named Nala, three daughters, eat brown sugar cinnamon pop tarts for breakfast, and wear jeans as often as possible when not in court.

Favorite Quotations

If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.
— Nelson Mandela

Be still when you have nothing to say; when genuine passion moves you, say what you've to say, and say it hot.
— D. H. Lawrence

Why slap them on the wrist with a feather when you can belt them over the head with a sledgehammer.
— Katharine Hepburn

Truth, when not sought after, rarely comes to light.
— Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr.

Hold fast to dreams For if dreams die Life is a broken-winged bird That cannot fly.
— Langston Hughes

There is no charm equal to tenderness of heart.
— Jane Austen

Words have no power to impress the mind without the exquisite horror of their reality. — Edgar Allan Poe

If you just set out to be liked, you would be prepared to compromise on anything, wouldn't you, at any time? And you would achieve nothing! — Margaret Thatcher

Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.
— Dr. Suess

Be sure you put your feet in the right place, then stand firm.
— Abraham Lincoln

If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. — Desmond Tutu

True eloquence consists in saying all that is required and only what is required. — La Rochefoucauld

No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted. — Aesop

The thing you fear most has no power. Your fear of it is what has the power. Facing the truth really will set you free. — Oprah Winfrey

If you're not failing every now and again, it's a sign you're not doing anything very innovative. — Woody Allen

The soul never thinks without a picture. — Aristotle

To thine own self be true, and it must follow, as the night the day, thou canst not then be false to any man. — William Shakespeare

Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee. — Muhammad Ali

Intelligence is the ability to adapt to change. — Stephen Hawking

It is better to have less thunder in the mouth and more lightning in the hand. — Apache proverb

People take different roads seeking fulfillment and happiness. Just because they're not on your road doesn't mean they've gotten lost. — Dalai Lama

How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.
— Anne Frank

Learn to laugh; it is a discipline to be mastered. Let go of the everlasting burden of always needing to sound profound. — Richard J. Foster

Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world. — Albert Einstein

Believe, when you are most unhappy, that there is something for you to do in the world. So long as you can sweeten another’s pain, life is not in vain. — Helen Keller

Remember that lost time does not return. — Thomas á Kempis

If thou faint in the day of adversity thy strength is small. — Proverbs 24:10

Everybody gets so much information all day long that they lose their common sense. — Gertrude Stein

It is harder to crack a prejudice than an atom. — Albert Einstein

The right of trial by jury shall be preserved. — 7th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution

I'd rather die on my feet than live on my knees. — Ludacris

And the trouble is, if you don't risk anything, you risk even more.
— Erica Jong

Words are chameleons, which reflect the color of their environment. — Judge Learned Hand

You may shoot me with your words, You may cut me with your eyes, You may kill me with your hatefullness, But still, like air, I'll rise. — Maya Angelou

The moment that justice must be paid for by the victim of injustice it becomes itself injustice. — Benjamin Tucker

He who keeps his eye on results cannot give himself wholeheartedly to his task, however simple or complex that task may be. — Howard Thurman

An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind. — Mahatma Ghandi

Life is painting a picture, not doing a sum. — Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr

The truth does not change according to our ability to stomach it emotionally. — Flannery O'Connor

We must adjust to changing times and still hold to unchanging principles. — Jimmy Carter

To be rooted is perhaps the most important and least recognized need of the human soul. — Simone Weil

It is not the level of prosperity that makes for happiness but the kinship of heart to heart and the way we look at the world. — Alexander Solzhenitsyn

It is high time that the ideal of success should be replaced by the ideal of service. — Albert Einstein

The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference. The opposite of art is not ugliness, it’s indifference. And the opposite of life is not death, it’s indifference. — Elie Wiesel

I don’t know the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everybody. — Bill Cosby

The time is always right to do what is right. — Martin Luther King Jr.

I had rather attempt something great and fail, than to attempt nothing at all and succeed. — Robert Schuller

It is very easy to break down something. You can take a stone and throw it through that window; that is easy. Try fixing it, and that takes longer. It takes longer to help someone who has been broken. That’s the work you’re doing. — Desmond Tutu

How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives. — Annie Dillard

Mine honor is my life; both grow in one; Take honor from me, and my life is done. — William Shakespeare

To straighten the crooked you must first do a harder thing – straighten yourself. — Buddha

A thought is an idea in transit. — Pythagoras

Fall seven times, stand up eight. — Old Japanese proverb

No generalization is wholly true, not even this one. — Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr.

Of what use is eloquence? He who engages in fluency of words to control men often finds himself hated by them. — Confucius

There is a vitality, a life-force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action and because there is only one of you in all of time, this expression is unique. — Martha Graham