Message from your President
LET'S RE-IMAGINE THE PROFESSION, TOGETHER!
All State Bar Association leadership and work on behalf of the State Bar Members is, and should be, designed and intended to make the Members' practice of law easier, more enjoyable, more fulfilling and more satisfying.
I am always looking for lessons to help and teach me. I came across “45 Life Lessons, Written by a 90-Year Old.” I share some, not all.
- Life isn’t fair, but it’s still good.
- When in doubt, just take the next small step.
- Your job won’t take care of you when you are sick. Your friends and family will.
- Don’t buy stuff you don’t need.
- Save for things that matter.
- Make peace with your past so it won’t screw up the present.
- It’s OK to let your children see you cry.
- Take a deep breath, it calms the mind.
- It’s never too late to be happy. But it’s all up to you and no one else.
- When it comes to going after what you love in life, don’t take no for an answer.
- Over prepare, then go with the flow.
- What other people think of you is none of your business.
- Growing old beats the alternative---dying young.
- If we all threw our problems in a pile and saw everyone else’s, we’d grab ours back.
- The best is yet to come . . . .
- No matter how you feel, get up, dress up and show up.
- Life isn’t tied with a bow, but it’s still a gift.
Yes, thoughtful lesson words. But, what do we do with them? I suggest we think and talk about them, together. In doing so, we help one another create passion, motivation and re-imagining, both in our professional and personal lives. We then are better positioned to serve all those we touch.
The month of March in South Dakota. An exciting time. Basketball tournament time. More of my story: another lesson for me.
In March 1969, an undefeated Onida Warriors basketball team tipped off the State “B” championship game at the Sioux Falls Arena against the DeSmet Bulldogs, coached by Larry Luitjens. I was lucky: I was a five-foot five inch sophomore on the floor of that game for all but two minutes. Behind 52-48 at half time, Onida became one of those undefeated (28-0) “B” champions with a 93-90 win.
By the way, congratulations to Coach Luitjens on his DeSmet champions in 1970 and 1971 and on all of his Custer teams and champions to this day. Coach Luitjens announced his retirement from coaching this year. He is not only a legend, he is a good man.
What is the lesson? Not the championship win, not the undefeated season, but something else. It can sometimes take a life time to understand and explain. Pulitzer Prize winning author Jeffrey Marx in Season of Life: A Football Star, a Boy, a Journey to Manhood, helps to explain.
Gilman High School in Maryland’s football team has some unusual rules. Iron Clad Rule: no Gilman football player should ever let another Gilman boy – teammate or not – eat lunch by himself. The player should go get the other boy, make him feel wanted, make him feel special. Gilman trains its players to be different.
On the first day of practice, the Gilman coaches ask the players: What is our job? The players answer: to love us. The coaches ask: what is your job? The players answer: to love each other. The coaches tell the players they expect greatness out of them, but the coaches also tell the players that the way they measure greatness is the impact the players make on other people’s lives.
How do the players make the most impact: 1) by being inclusive rather than exclusive; Gilman does not believe in separation; 2) by developing empathy and kindness for all; empathy means feeling what the other person feels; 3) by living with integrity and not only when it is convenient to do so; 4) by seeking justice because it is often hidden; 5) by encouraging the oppressed because they are always discouraged; and 6) by constantly basing the players’ thoughts and actions on one simple question: what can I do for you, how can I help you today?
The lesson: for football or basketball players or any athlete, male or female, experiencing a championship season is important; it represents struggle, goal-setting and goal-reaching. At the same time, however, and even more important, the athletic experience should teach that living with integrity and seeking justice provide the basis for a championship life, each and every day.
Analogizing athletics to life is part of my story. I am sorry but I cannot help it. With that admission, I suggest such lessons can enrich our legal profession, our lives and our service to our clients, if we let them.
Final lesson for me: Cronkite by Douglas Brinkley, an educational and insightful biography of the “Most Trusted Man in America.” Why did Americans trust Walter Cronkite (Nov. 4, 1916-July 17, 2009)? I conclude that, like lawyers who develop trust, Walter was in the saw dust pit. He was on scene. He was there. This is where journalists, parents and lawyers get the facts and the truth.
Because I was a young boy in Onida when Walter took over for Douglas Edwards on the CBS Evening News in 1961, I identify quite readily with practically all of the events in this biography. For younger lawyers, I understand, not so.
Nonetheless, I see Cronkite as consistent with our “re-imagining the profession together,” our Oath, our Rules of Professional Responsibility, the Rule of Law and Fair and Impartial Courts. I say this because Walter himself observed, and many people observed about him on his death, aspirational words for lawyers: communication of integrity, sense of mission, facts are sacred, truth, humility, compassion, clarity, accuracy, timeliness, family, trust, honesty, humor, empathy, connection. (Cronkite, Epilogue, Electronic Uncle Sam, at 656-67.)
Brinkley describes that Cronkite’s brand stood for straight news truthfulness: “his trade was objective journalism; his product was fair-mindedness, judicial wisdom, and a moral compass that knew how to decipher right from wrong.” (Id. at 657.) The 92-year old Cronkite, hailing from Missouri and Texas, possessed “inborn optimistic faith” in America’s constitutional principles: serving as anchorman was not a sacred calling, but a public service. (Id. at 658-59.)
I share this faith in America’s constitutional principles. I believe we all do. This faith guides us, informs our work and our lives. I believe our Bar Association’s implementation of the Strategic Plan shares this faith. And, now and then, we, as lawyers and citizens, need to help and remind our Legislature to share this faith.
Congratulations Strategic Planning Coordinator Francy Foral
Francy attended the National Conference of Bar Executives, the National Conference of Bar Presidents and the ABA Midyear meetings in Chicago last month. Executive Director Barnett paved the way for Francy to participate on a panel to share information about Project Rural Practice.
Also, the ABA invited Francy to participate in ABA President James Silkenat’s Forum on Legal Access. We support Francy’s representation of the State Bar of South Dakota at this national level.
I invite you to watch a short five-minute “Be the Change” video created by the ABA’s Legal Access Job Corps Initiative. The video features South Dakota and others from across the country implementing new innovative models to improve access to legal services. Here is the link: http://www.americanbar.org/groups/leadership/office of the president/legal access jobs corps/video1.html
Also at the ABA Midyear, Pat Goetzinger graciously accepted on our behalf the Louis M. Brown Award for Legal Access. Thanks to Pat, Francy, Charlie Thompson, Judge Dave Gienapp, Sarah Theophilus and Kirsten Taggart for being there for us. We have some endearing photos of the event.
Finally, I invite you to attend the Rural Practice Symposium on March 20-21 in Vermillion at the Law School. On March 20, Chief Justice Gilbertson will kick off this South Dakota Law Review presented event with a 4:30 p.m. keynote address. During the symposium, national and state panelists and speakers will address access to justice, rural lawyering and practice, and rural economics. The 6:00 p.m. March 20 “Carey’s Social” sounds appealing. We look forward to seeing you there. Thanks.