I was about two months into my first post-law school job. A senior attorney had a case that was being turned over to me. The first court date on this case that I had to handle involved defending the defendant’s motion for summary judgment.
What a motion for summary judgment is–and this really boring, so consoder yourselves warned–is a motion asking the court to rule in your favor on the premise that there are no issues of material fact to be resolved, and that all existing facts point only towards one conclusion: that the moving party should win the case as a matter of law.
In other words, it’s asking the judge to tell you that you win before you even have a trial.
“Don’t worry,” said the senior attorney when I asked if I should draft an opposition, “I have one ready to go. I’ll email it right over.”
“Okay,” I said naively, stupidly, and maybe, yes, even a little bit to lazily. After all, I had other work to do, and it’s human nature to take the path of least resistance.
The thing is, I had a nagging feeling in the back of my mind that I should draft my own opposition anyway.
Whatever, I thought. If I can’t rely on my colleagues, who can I rely on?
Well, “I’ll send it right over” turned out to be “the night before the hearing.”
It was garbage. A poorly written, shoddily reasoned piece of legalistic trash with hardly any case law or even anything resembling sound legal reasoning to support our opposition. I don’t think it could have convinced a tree of our argument; what hope did it have before a judge?
I went to court and, in front of te judge and rhe angry defendant’s attorney, got walloped. Humiliated. Absolutely spanked. Defendant’s motion granted, case closed.
I learned an important lesson then: stay paranoid. And don’t rely on anybody.
…trust but verify…
I sometimes wavered from this philosophy, as this previous instance shows, but the instances have been few and far between:
I did my own research. I thought I had the answer. This tax question seemed simple, really, a non-issue. How little I knew. The attorney I’m partnering with is very smart and experienced but, like me, has next to no experience with tax law.
But there was hope, a light shining in the distance promising salvation. A year ago, when this project was in the planning stages, another person in my group had written a short research memo that seemed to address exactly what I was looking for, and indeed bolster the results of my own work.
Triumphant, I reported my findings to our team. I had the answer! I was about to send our findings to the interested parties when–whoops!–unbeknownst to us one of the higher-ups had contacted another colleague, one who does have tax experience, about this same issue. The answer he gave turned out to be the correct one. And wouldn’t you know it, it was the exact opposite of the one I had come up with. I was leading the charge in the wrong direction. The impact of this on the success of our project would have been massive.
I relied in large part on work done by somebody else which was incorrect. Shame on me for not doing my own due diligence.
These story involves professional reliance, but the attitude all these years later has bled over into my personal life.
I want to be the kind of person that everybody else can rely on, the one who is like a rock. But I also have little to know patience for those who constantly rely on others.
This is a paradox, and it isn’t necessarily good.
Some people need reassurance more than others. Some people care what others think about the more than others. Some people don’t have confidence in their own ability to make and stick with decisions, Or to deal with the consequences of those decisions.
Everybody’s different, and I find it a struggle to get used to this fact. It’s a cognitive bias to think that everybody else thinks acting feels the way you do, and that the way you think acting field is right while everybody else is wrong.
That’s not the way the world works, and it’s going to be hard to get along with people you might have to get along with if you think like this.
I struggle to get over this every day. Sometimes it’s so tempting to look at full-grown adults who rely on me or on others with nothing more than contempt.
But this isn’t fair. And it’s kind of mean. And I know a lot of the mindset and masculinity gurus out there will tell you that the week deserve to die and all of that.
I don’t fully by that. Just because I try not to be weak or fragile doesn’t mean that other people still aren’t. Some people might be incapable of self-reliance, or they are just afraid and need to be helped to take the first step.
So that’s one thing that’s helped me become more sympathetic to those who always need to rely on others.
I’d rather be encouraging them and help boost their own confidence rather than tear them down or dismiss them out right.
I like building people up. It’s more fun than tearing them down, and it’s a hell of a lot better for both you and the other person in the long run…particularly any children you may have.
Americans pride ourselves on our rugged individualism and set-reliance. We are, after all, the Atlas of the modern world. It’s important to keep this virtue alive into future generations, and live it in or daily lives.
Stay paranoid, because other people are relying on you.
It sounds weird, but it makes sense, at least to me.
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