I just got home—late—from another meeting. And the meeting suggested far more about what makes lawyers tick than about the subject of the meeting itself.
Some have suggested that lawyers think differently than other people do. Criminy, maybe our DNA is even different.
Many would argue that may be going too far. But having sat through another meeting that I was not required to attend, I’m beginning to have my doubts. I mean, what’s wrong with us?
I’m inclined to think that we are afflicted with a nefarious bug that hobbles our judgment, steals our time, and—in serious cases—renders us incapable of spotting a sack of manure even when it’s staring us in the face.
The condition? An abiding love of process, of seeing things through to the end.
How serious is it? Well, many attorneys become so attached to process that government officials have developed a legal, nonreligious union for the trembling couple. We call it “Civil Procedure.” When you spot someone who claims “I love Civil Procedure,” civil commitment should not be far behind.
But why should I judge? Is whispering “due process” in a throaty snarl worthy of my condemnation? Is it the love that dare not speak its name?
I’ll try not to cast aspersions. But my meeting tonight makes me wonder whether we ought to regulate lawyers’ love for their procedural paramour.
The meeting was a community gathering regarding the Phoenix Valley Metro transit corridors. It was one of two years’ worth of meetings I’ve attended (as a neighbor, not as a State Bar staffer), all in service to a “Downtown Working Group” on which I sit.
Our charge? Provide insight and feedback on the multitude of options that exist for the expansion of rapid transit in and out of downtown Phoenix. We have to assess the mode (either opting for the current light rail method, or for a bus-rapid transit mode). We also look at routes and station placement.
As you might guess, there is much disagreement. But it’s been pretty civil, and Valley Metro does provide dinner, so … .
What has been striking in this meeting, and in every other one community group on which I sit, is how preternaturally calm lawyers remain in the face of virtually no progress. We nod as important items are tabled, or when yet another subcommittee is created, or as an explanation that has been provided 100 times is renegotiated.
The map of proposed light rail extensions extends into the distance—and into 2018, 2019, 2021, even 2030. And that’s assuming the City doesn’t run out of money (again), and that the powers-that-be in, say, 2021, don’t change their mind and opt for hovercraft, or jetpacks. I won’t explain how old I’ll be in 2030.
This is why we all attend a meeting a month for years?
I think I did pretty well remaining calm myself, even when it became clear that little of our input was making a dent in what may have been a predetermined decision. But then I came across another map that gave me pause.
The Phoenix street railway map of 1887 to 1848 tells me something about how lasting all of our efforts could be. The masters of the universe who crafted that plan saw it stand for 60+ years. Now there was a committee!
But our committee, and most other community involvement? Hmmm. I’m feeling more Ozymandias than everlasting.
Maybe all us lawyers should be a little less civil-procedural, and just buy a jetpack.