Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The Law Is Boring - Sep 30

It's real late as I write this post (just before 4:00 a.m.) but I just had a two hour nap and I feel pretty invigorated. For those precious few that bother to follow this blog (Thank you!), you may be aware of my ambition to become a paralegal. Why then do I say that the law is boring? And if that's the case, why am I persisting in this particular field?

I like the ad shown recently advertising for the state of California. Many well-known celebrities appear and toss off a couple of bon mots. Somewhere in the middle of the ad is one of golf's fan favorites, Phil Mickelson. In his cameo, we cheekily hear Phil say, "We're just a bunch of pencil pushers" whilst recording his score on a putting green. As any golfer will tell you, it's absolutely critical to keep an accurate scorecard. Failure to do so would lead to disqualification (and therefore loss of prize winnings) in any tournament. But do golfers live to write down numbers on a scorecard? No! They live for the game and the physical challenge that every golf course brings. It is precisely this interaction with the game, especially in front of a cheering Sunday crowd, that really drives a golfer.

So it is for those who enter the law field. We too have to do lot of paperwork, probably much more than Phil will ever see in his lifetime! But it's that interaction with people, be it clients or others whose job it is to help in administering justice. I'll tell you another secret: Money is boring too. But it's that interaction between people and money that fascinates me. By all accounts, entering into the legal field is a lucrative one. If you work hard and play by the rules (and there are many!) you can make yourself a pretty penny. Forget the Hollywood version of what lawyers do. The reality is that being in the legal field means being heavily regulated in how we conduct our business. But that does not translate into boring. No sir! It's that interaction between ordinary people and the justice system that keeps us happily employed.

The Christian Angle

People aren't going to remember you by the clothes you wear or the car you drive. Neither are they going to remember every word spoken to them. What people will remember is how you interacted with them. Did you meet them at a point of need or did you take advantage of them while they were in a vulnerable position? Did you treat them with respect as a human being or did you regard them as just an impersonal source of income?

I'm reminded of the story of how Jesus knelt before His disciples and washed their feet. At first, Peter recoils before acquiescing to Jesus' request. Jesus responds:

"You call me 'Teacher' and 'Lord,' and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another's feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. I tell you the truth, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.
(John 13:13-17)

No one ever said meeting people's need was going to be easy or clinical. Jesus' ministry wasn't about laying down God's law. It was always that personal touch he brought to His disciples that made Him effective. What an excellent servant we become when we set our sights on Him!

Johnny Cash

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Bring Your Cheque Book - Sep 23

That's probably the most profound lesson I learned last week. My paralegal studies are going well. I've finished with the Microsoft stuff (7 weeks), Bookkeeping Fundamentals (2 weeks) and Simply Accounting (also 2 weeks). On to the good stuff!

What was my teacher referring to when he said that? In the legal field, no lawyer or paralegal opens a file and begins representing that client until they get their initial retainer fee. Its all business which is how it has to be. Anybody in the legal field who started working for a client before receiving their retainer monies has lived to regret it. There can be no "I'll pay you later" or a pay-as-you-go system.

Why the rush for money first? I was shocked to learn that my lawyer teacher (who specializes in family law) charges $300 PER HOUR! On a per diem basis, lawyers can charge well over a $1500. A client on a working wage has to beg, borrow or steal to get the necessary funds. He might have to dip into your RRSP's or ask his parents (or family member) for a loan. He may have to take out a second mortgage or cash in his investments. Getting legal help can drain a man's financial resources rather rapidly.

Why Not Represent Yourself?

Seems like a good idea at first glance, particularly if you feel you have a strong case. Those who do are often bitten by the pride bug, thinking "I'll show this smarmy lawyer. I'm gonna put him in his place." This however is an astonishingly bad idea. Not only will you botch the case, your slam-dunk case can quickly go south. Having trained counsel on your side is therefore crucial. An untrained layman entering a courthouse without first doing the diligent legal research (and citations) is looking for trouble. Nor should you bring along any friend or family member to defend you if they are unlicensed. The presiding judge may not even consider your case if you're not represented properly. Please choose wisely if you need legal help. Get legal aid (paid for by the Ontario government) if need be but above all DO NOT attempt to navigate the judicial system on your own.

Rebounds and Appeals

Keeping with the basketball theme, it's critical to understand why you must retain competent and licensed counsel when you first enter the system. As I said, an apparent slam-dunk case can go quickly south if it is sloppy and disorganized. Appealing the decision of the lower courts is going to cost you even more time and money. Lawyers love it when they see prideful people crash and burn in a court setting. More money for them! In an appeal case, a client can use up twice as many hours for a lawyer at twice the rate of pay. Such services can quickly add up to a hefty bill. Sin is indeed expensive!

Life Isn't Fair: The Market System

Why is it that guys like Mark Texeira of the New York Yankees can make in excess $20m a year yet a medical doctor who saves lives gets 'only' a six-figure salary? Who's more valuable to society, a guy who swings a wooden bat or someone who saves human life? Subsequently, how is it that a lawyer (or paralegal) can charge a working man who makes a tenth of what he makes? How can anyone justify a $300/hr. rate? I'll tell you why. Because the free market says so. I know that sounds like a terrible answer and perhaps even a cop-out. Yet any system that doesn't use free market methods impoverishes all those who chafe under it.

I've no plans to bankrupt myself by charging rock-bottom rates to future clients once I get my P1 license. Nor will I gouge them either. But most definitely I will charge them what the market can bear. I've worked 11 years in what turned out to be a dead end job making $14/hr.. So I know what its like to be part of the working class. Indeed I still identify with them. When I got laid off I decided early on that I didn't want just any job. I wanted a career with a future, one that would dovetail with my personal values, abilities and interests.

Knowledge Becomes Power Only When You're Willing to Apply It!

So let me be clear. By no means has the love of money entered my heart. Jesus is still number one. But why not use my God-given gifts to further myself? Money to me has always been a means to an end (and therefore not an end unto itself). It buys you nice things. It allows you to travel to places you've always wanted to visit. It widens your perspective. Money is not evil. It is the love of money that is the problem. I have no plans to fall into that trap.

Father, I pray that I will be able to use my gifts wisely to help others. I pray also that I do not fall into the false worldview of materialism and humanism. Let all my efforts glorify your Son, Jesus Christ, who paid the ultimate price on the cross for man's sin. He is the Judge of Judges and our one True Advocate in the Heavenly courts. In His name I pray, Amen.

Johnny Cash

Sunday, September 13, 2009

For Kendra - Sep 13

I'm always excited when a precious reader leaves a comment. It is a tremendous source of encouragement to me when someone thinks it important enough to address my blog.

Kendra commented on my The Number 666, 777 post the following (I took the liberty of correcting your syntax whilst leaving the grammar intact. I hope you don't mind):

I arrived here because I dreamed of the 777 actually from a dream. Its starts out with a Medusa form standing with in a room and I'm warned not to look or enter or I will turn to stone....but I enter anyway Medusa turns his head away and then I see 777 and I need to remember this such number not sure why.

Kendra, here's two passages that might be of help:

I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions.
(Joel 2:28)

Woe to the earth and the sea, because the devil has gone down to you! He is filled with fury, because he knows that his time is short.
(Revelation 12:12b)

While dreams are not trite - and far be it for me to trivialize your night visions - I don't place a great deal on what we dream at night. We get out of our subconscious minds what we consciously choose to put into it. A Christian will have visions, a Muslim will have visions, a Jew will have visions and so on. In all cases the dreams they envision are but reflections of the soul (that is, the subconscious) and nothing more.

Your 'Medusa' vision does intrigue me somewhat. I have quoted from the Book of the Revelation because Satan (both real and spiritual) and Medusa (born of Greek mythology) seem to parallel one another. Mind you that's a guess on my part. Perhaps you've seen the number 777 as well as your Medusa symbol somewhere in your travels and this all came together one night. Keep a personal dream diary by the bedside just in case. Bonne Chance!

Johnny Cash