Monday, August 20, 2012

Practicing Law Like its Kindergarten


I spent Saturday at “Kindergarten Camp”, a day for the school to show the incoming “kinders” and their parents what kindergarten will be like.  Going into the school cafeteria, I was struck by a feeling of melancholy.  I remembered how much fun elementary school was; before the hormones started in and kids sectioned off into ‘popular’ and ‘not’ groups. I’m excited for my son to experience the joy of school as well.  I kind of miss it.  As I do with most things, I started thinking of what life would be like if the practice of law was more like elementary school (and of course, I need a topic for today’s post…).

Some things don’t translate.  One of the best parts of kindergarten is the lack of real responsibility.  Sure, you have to worry about getting good grades, but if you have a bad day no one loses hundreds of thousands of dollars or worse yet ends up in jail. 

But there are plenty of things that could be applied, like – “Be Nice to Your Neighbor”.  This command was plastered on the walls of Z’s classroom.  How nice it would be if lawyers, and business people, remembered that we’re all citizens of the world, and it’s a very small world.  It pays to be nice even when in a conflict or dispute.  The practice would be much more enjoyable if we remembered to be nice to our neighbors.

“Learning is fun” was another lesson that was reiterated over and over again, especially to the parents.  And they are right; growing your skill set can be fun.  Learning new things and expanding your mind for the sake of learning is very enriching.  We tend to focus on the immediate need.  Especially in house, we get stuck in a rut and don’t take the time to go out of our comfort zone unless forced to by external events.  I’d love to learn more about structured finance and the land of derivatives.  An area that has had such a huge impact on our economy is definitely worth exploring more.  I have absolutely no need to do so for professional or personal reasons, so I haven’t. 

Maybe the thing I miss most from kindergarten is recess.  While we may not need a couple of breaks each day to run around on the playground like crazy people, even grown-ups need a break.  With today’s technology it’s too easy to answer those emails, make those calls, attend those meetings and work remotely even when on vacation.  I actually can’t remember the last vacation I took that I didn’t work an average of at least 2 hours a day.  I even worked while on maternity leave with all of my children, while with 3 different employers.  The thing is that in most cases, it’s not the employer that is demanding this dedication to work.  We’re doing this to ourselves.  Maybe we need to take a moment to remember kindergarten and how much easier that math problem was after recess than it was before. 

My challenge this week, practice law like it is kindergarten and see if it can be as fun as it was back then.  Any other lessons we can take from elementary?  Leave them in the comments.