I have spent my professional life serving the interests of individuals against corporations, fighting for workers against those who have hurt them and making whatever contribution I could toward making life a little more equitable, just and sustainable for those around me. The items below reflect some of what I’ve done as a lawyer, but the why is just as important as the what. If a doctor goes to medical school or a nurse to nursing school, the purpose is clear – they will spend their professional lives saving others.
Lawyers are less esteemed because they are different. They may choose to work for tobacco companies or The American Heart Association. They might work for polluters or the EPA. We take sides, but what’s forgotten (even by some lawyers) is that each side is part of a moral equation.
Like many of my colleagues, my skills have been honed in courtrooms, in offices taking depositions and in drafting endless motion papers. But as my civil procedure professor once said, “Everyone has a right to an attorney, but they don’t have a right to you.” I have handled all aspects of premises liability, negligence and contracts cases, but I believe I have benefitted from always knowing why I was taking a on a case, a client or a community responsibility.
That has meant serving on boards of community nonprofits, in political positions and on campaigns from the local to the federal level. It has meant coaching kids, helping a progressive talk radio station get off the ground and working on behalf of clients against well funded corporations. Ultimately, it has meant going beyond the comfort zone of most litigators and I have been fortunate to gain a broader perspective from doing so.
In 2020, it’s clear we face threats to marginalized ethnic communities, to workers and to our environment. We need as many advocates as possible, lawyers and non-lawyers alike, to be on the just side of that equation.