Am I really helping people? Is the system too broken? Is it still really the best we have?
Difficult as it is to address, I have thoughts like these from time to time as I have practiced law. It is easy to become jaded when time and repetition make a meaningful task rote and bad experiences make you skeptical of the system. It also seems the more I learn of human nature and psychology, the more I question the necessarily-human decisions we must make on all sides of the judicial system, from the clients and advocates to the bench and jury. With faulty memories and clouded logic, is it really working?
As I pondered on this concern over the last few months, I stopped and considered an analogy I had not considered before: traveling in a foreign place.
Whatever the reason may be, whether born of human nature, just plain nature, society, or something else, our clients and community members find themselves in unknown territory when they come to attorneys or the court for help. We members of the bench and bar might consider ourselves as locals and travel guides in these situations. We do not know the future or every in and out of what may happen to those who come to us for help, but we know the language, the streets and houses, the food and the culture of where they are headed. Sometimes, we become travel guide and interpreter, explaining the language in a way they can understand. Sometimes we are simply a kind resident of the new country who can offer patience and a smile. Sometimes, we are guiding our clients through a war zone of sorts and other times we are simply helping them maximize their outings and exploration in a beautiful new destination.
Regardless of what they will be going through, we help because we have already been there and have seen what they will yet see. And so, they are not alone or lost.
I recently listened to Jeremy Utley speak on the You Are Not So Smart podcast. He discussed Dunker’s Radiation Problem and how analogies, for whatever reason, really can provide insight to humanity that cannot be found elsewhere. I guess this is why the traveler analogy created a lasting impression on me.
I hope that you too, as you enter the 2023 year, can find meaning in the way in which you give through your work, the way in which you guide those in need as advocates or make the new territory more inviting and less stressful for them as members of the bench. It matters.
--- Brynne Gant