f/k/a archives . . . real opinions & real haiku

April 4, 2007

special thanks to the Oklahoma Bar’s Jim Calloway

Filed under: viewpoint — David Giacalone @ 9:26 pm

      It took me three months to research and write “the Graying Bar: let’s not forget the ethics” (f/k/a, March 20, 2007).  I committed so much time to the project, because the ethical implications of our aging profession badly need to be discussed and debated, but appeared to be getting virtually no attention in public, and because relevant materials had not been aggregated for convenient reference.   I am, therefore, grateful for every single person who reads the essay, and to every website editor who recommends it to others. 

 JimCalloway  Tonight, I want to tip my hat to Oklahoma lawyer Jim Calloway, who pointed to the Graying Bar essay today at his eponymous Law Practice Tips Blog, in a posting titled Issues about “The Graying Bar” (April 4, 2007).  His pointer has already brought quite a few readers to this weblog.  Of course, as indicated in a thankyou note at the foot of the Graying Bar piece, many others webloggers have pointed there and said some incredibly kind things about the essay.  What is particularly noteworthy about Jim Calloway’s pointer is the fact that he apparently had to hold his nose in order to discuss this website at his weblog.  Jim so dislikes f/k/a that he needed to state:

“I now find myself with a moral obligation to direct your attention to one of my least favorite law blogs in the entire blogosphere.”  

Jim couldn’t even bring himself to mention the name of this weblog or of the essay’s author.  Yet, he was willing to recommend that his readers read it, explaining “This blog post is a quite comprehensive academic treatment of issues relating to some senior lawyers and includes numerous links and citations to material about the aging process and our profession. Even the normally distracting interspersed [haiku] add flavor and texture to this topic.”  So as not to taint himself unduly, he offered the justification that “I know some bar association staff follow this blog and I wouldn’t want any of you to miss out on the resources here.”  However, to keep his reputation clear, Jim adds:

“It won’t be enough for me to add this blog back to my newsreader. I have found it to be biased and unfair to bar associations and small firm lawyers in particular. But I do want to note good work when I find it, especially when there are limited resources on a topic.”  (emphasis added)

NoYabutsT To be honest, I hate to think our haiku is distracting [haven’t lawyers been trained to skip over parts of a text that they consider to be filler, such as string citations?].  Far more important and serious, I very much dislike being described as “biased and unfair” without any particulars given.  Of course I have a point of view, and it has been explicitly laid out at this weblog from the start (see the original About ethicalEsq page, and below the fold): The interests of the “average” client or consumer of legal services are my focus, and they will always come before the interests of the organized bar and of individual lawyers who fail to give competent, diligent, reasonably-priced service to their clients.   On the other hand, when bar associations and my colleagues at the bar serve their clients well, I applaud them.

For example, in October 2004, I was pleased to mention an article co-authored by Jim:

There is a very thoughtful article in Law Practice Management magazine for lawyers interested in alternative billing, whose clients are “less sophisticated” buyers of legal services — i.e., consumers or small businesses: “Alternative Billing for the “Main Street Lawyer” (by James A Calloway and Mark A. Robertson, Sept. 2004).  Its conclusion. . . . .. .   

On my ethicalEsq About page, I stated my intention (despite frustration with the state of legal ethics and the lawyer disciplinary system in America) “to remain cautiously optimistic, while maintaining civility, humor, and a respectful willingness to listen with an open mind.”  I also made a pledge:

dagIcon [H]aving a point of view, and leaning toward a particular philosophy or constituency, is not a license to mislead.  I will never knowingly or recklessly ignore or hide important facts or factors in my advocacy for consumer rights.

Jim Calloway is an employee of the Oklahoma Bar Association.  He is the Director of  OBA’s Management Assistance Program, and manages its Solo and Small Firm Conference.  It isn’t the least bit strange, therefore, that he would disagree — personally or in his official role — with some of the things I have to say about bar associations (my formative years were, after all, spent as an antitrust lawyer focused on the anticompetitive practices of professional groups), or about the failings of some lawyers in solo or small firms (despite my having spent the last decade of my practice in a four-lawyer “Main Street” firm and then as a solo practitioner focused on Family Court).   He also might have disagreed with my take on the ABA TechShow2005, which he chaired.

       But, Jim has to my knowledge (except for clearing up a Blawg Review matter) never Commented or written to explain his disagreement on any topic or posting.  He’s never let me know that (or why) I have the wrong facts, or have imputed incorrect motives, or exaggerated the size of a problem.  I welcome such Comments, if only because I do not want to mislead my readers, nor to go around misinformed.   

SoapBox  I hope — since we are all grown-ups, and many are lawyers — that we all understand that my saying something you don’t want to hear (or vice versa) does not necessarily demonstrate bias or lack of fairness.  Despite my background as a lawyer (and a Sicilian), I have never believed in the law of Omerta or the “gentlemanly” custom of keeping our dirty laundry locked in our own hampers to fester.  On the other hand, I’ve always believed that there is much to learn from people of good faith who see things differently than I do — and, it takes a lot for me to conclude that someone is acting or reacting in bad faith.  Reciprocity would be appreciated.  I am after all, despite the gaggle of alter egos here ar f/k/a, only human.

It’s good to hear from Jim that “some bar association staff follow this blog.”  I’d like to think that many of those “followers” stop by despite disagreeing with me, and that I have a few philosophical allies working for and with bar associations (and small firms).   I hereby invite all of you to let me know when you think I’ve got my facts or conclusions wrong — with, I hope, both persuasive arguments and facts, and civility.  If I write on a topic of special interest to Jim Calloway, I hope he’ll stop by or deputize someone to express his reactions. 

So, Jim, thank you for not letting your dislike for the messenger keep you from spreading the message on the ethics of the Graying Bar.  I hope to be acquitted of your “biased and unfair” charge.  If not, I’m going to keep doing my best to live up to the standards I have set out for myself.  

graphClimbS Below the fold, I’ve excerpted part of the ethicalEsq/fka Mission Statement. But, now, here’s a little distraction from psychologist-professor-poet George Swede:


in the pawnshop window
a hooker studies
her reflection

putting holes
in my argument
the woodpecker



last night’s bitterness
he adds twice the sugar
to his coffee



still on the bookshelf
the mother-in-law’s finger line
through the dust


stepping on
sidewalk ants     the boy
everyone bullies


the son who   dagIcon
argues everything
I study his face in a puddle


in the empty parking lot
a crow caws and caws
who knows why


under the dirty,
one-eyed hen      a perfect
white egg 



nobody on the street
stray dog stops to bite
its wagging tail 

…… by George Swede from  Almost Unseen: Selected Haiku of George Swede
(Brooks Books, 2000)  



The f/k/a Mission and Approach: In May 2003, when this weblog was launched under the name ethicalEsq, I laid out my focus, philosophy and background.  Click here to see About ethicalEsq.  I made no bones that my emphasis would be on “the concerns of the average consumer in need of law-related services, rather than ‘sophisticated’ clients, such as large businesses, who already have plenty of advisors and advocates.”  Here are some other points from About ethicalEsq that help explain where I’ve been coming from for almost four years:

  1. The underlying question will always be whether a proposal, rule or action puts the client’s interests first.  Appearances to the contrary in the real world, the “special” relationship between lawyers and clients is meant to protect clients not lawyers.                     
  2. A basic premise of this weblog is that being an ethical lawyer means far more than obeying the disciplinary codes.
  3. Professional organizations, and the ethical codes they write and purport to enforce, often needlessly stifle competition under the guise of protecting clients.
  4. Seeing how law is practiced on Main Street [in a decade practicing as a solo lawyer, and in a four-lawyer firm, while going almost daily to Family Court], confirmed the beliefs that I had gained about competition as consumer protection at the FTC.  More important, it left me with the lasting impression that the average consumer of legal services is often both shortchanged and overbilled — with too little respect, information and choice offered by the legal profession, and too little protection from those running the disciplinary systems that oversee lawyers.
  5. Although a sense of frustration over the current state of legal ethics fuels much of what appears in ethicalEsq, I intend to remain cautiously optimistic, while maintaining civility, humor, and a respectful willingness to listen with an open mind.

I also made a pledge: [H]aving a point of view, and leaning toward a particular philosophy or constituency, is not a license to mislead.  I will never knowingly or recklessly ignore or hide important facts or factors in my advocacy for consumer rights.

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