Sunday, April 09, 2006

Slow Thinking, Slow Loving. This week, Juan and I commiserated on a couple of matters. He is the responsible attorney on one of the cases, and I on the other of them. We are one another's consultant on these matters.

We commiserated on how "hard" these two matters are. That is, we complained because they took so much time to penetrate, to sort out the facts and the issues, and then to compose the appropriate plan. And time, the legal culture tells us, having surrendered to the bean-counters of the world, is money. For the modern lawyer, being fast is being good.

So Juan and I worry that being slow to grasp a matter either indicates callowness (the word Satan whispers into Juan's ear) or declining mental ability (the word he whispers into mine). But Juan is not callow, I can assure him. And Juan still thinks I have the horses. So part of what we do for each other is to say, "Yeah, that's hard! Here are some suggestions, and, by the way, you are a good lawyer."

The other part of that worry (and I fear its a larger portion than we care to admit) is that we may be "losing money" on the case. That is, we made a deal with the client under the assumption that the matter would take x amount of time, but it is turning out, as the case goes on, that the matter is taking x plus y. Even if our billing arrangement is a "straight hourly rate", we know that ethically speaking the case can only bear a fee of just so much. Even if the client doesn't complain, then our consciences will.

But we also know that, once a case is in the door, we really must give it all we have got. And I think we do, finally, do that. What a blessing it is to be out from under the pressure of the "big firm" where quality assessments really are on the basis of how many beans one puts into his jar. What we try to do, then, is to qualify the case carefully before we are engaged. We are getting better at that, I think. But the matter of how best to go about qualifyng a proposed engagement is another post. What I am talking about here is "slow thinking".

Actually, "slow thinking" is often the best sort of thinking there is. As one of Carol's marvelous dinners is to Subway's 6-inch turkey on wheat, the one often taking several hours in the preparation, not to mention the shopping, mental energy, and life-long experience, and the other about five minutes, so the fact finding, deliberation, discussion with peers, and many drafts of the complaint, the brief, or the opinion letter is to the "sidewalk opinion" that some laymen are able to trick from us, for which nothing is paid and for which we often give the exact value of that fee.

"Loving" is another area where our inferior nature often tells us simply to "go for it". But "slow loving" is so exquisite that in Ode to a Grecian Urn, Keats slows its progress to the point where it is frozen in time.

It is so difficult to be slow because we have allowed so many claims to bind us. The clutter I encounter is often so colorful and attractive. It only asks for a moment of my time. And like Gulliver, I am tied down by thousands of little moments as the weeks go by, none of them really going anywhere, none of them in any respect consistent with seeking God's Kingdom, seeking it first, and his righteousness.

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