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The “Higher Realm” of Practicing Law: Another Post About Steven Pressfield

Posted in Writing

At the risk of being annoying about it, I want to commend another Steven Pressfield blog post to you. This one is titled Worthy Thoughts and Unworthy Thoughts. Mr Pressfield has been on the road lately, and he has had to work hard to focus on things that matter. Instead, because he is not working, his mind has been on lower things:

I don’t know about you but when I wake up in the morning, all kinds of incendiary crap is rolling around in my head. Grievances, complaints, bitching to myself. I work myself into a lather over perceived slights and imagined injustices. I just got an e-mail this morning, out of the blue, from a guy who wants me to send him 30 copies of War of Art for free. Should I waste even one milli-second of my time thinking about this? But instead it’s rattling around in my brain like a ball bearing in a pinball machine. Why? Because I’m not working.

If you practice any type of law, appellate law in particular, you probably find yourself in the same situation. You should be in your office with the door closed focused on the structure of the appellate brief that will be soon due or comparing a questionable precedent in your state to trends in other states as you contemplate the history of some area of the law and how your case might fit into it. Instead, you’re busy feeling insulted by the jailer at the front desk who is making you put your cellphone in your car and explaining to someone why you can’t put 25 enumerations of error in his brief. Law has its higher realm and its lower realm as well. And, amazingly enough, when you are doing the work, writing the brief, putting the trial notebook together, interviewing the witnesses, and thinking through the bigger picture on your cases, the other parts of practicing law (lawyers, you know what they are) aren’t as consuming. And, interestingly enough, the opportunities to go off course don’t often come from your opponent, the judge, or the witnesses. The source of insults and pettiness, the stuff that can really bog you down, comes from other places in the practice of law. Let’s just say that, while there are likely too many lawyers, there are way too many non-lawyer who think that they are lawyers. So, if you can’t change it, you can practice in a higher place by doing the work.

So, I will say, as I have said before, Steven Pressfield is the one non-lawyer whose work lawyers should be reading, particularly lawyers who write. He’s made me think about the nature of the work that I do. And he even inspired me to re-read some Hemingway.