After 35 years practicing law, surprises are infrequent.

Pleasant surprises even less frequent.

My recent attendance at the Closing Argument Regional was a pleasant surprise and one worth summarizing.

I came into the Regional beat up, beat down, sick of life as a trial lawyer and generally ready to skip the whole experience. I was probably honestly just counting down the days till I finally died and went home to be with the Lord. I came in feeling I had let down everyone I knew and loved through bad decisions I could not fix.

The first evening was not my cup of tea. Too much interaction and too much emphasis on basic human interaction. I preferred to sit alone and listen, but that was not possible. The next day, the sessions in the morning, afternoon and evening were still grating on me and making me very uncomfortable. I was not interested in talking about “feelings” I just wanted some stuff to use in my closing arguments and the sessions were just pushing on me emotionally to get myself into the shoes of other people and experience what they were experiencing. It really pissed me off. I had enough trouble with my own problems and was certainly not wanting to share the problems of these strangers I had never met before.

Saturday the sessions began to move me. I found myself in the hall talking to people and was actually beginning to look forward to the next session starting. Suddenly and with no reason, I began to “get it”. I began to understand that the heart and the things that matter in life require us to take risks, to be willing to feel pain and sadness, to emote with our entire being not just with our brains. It was like a moment of clarity and awareness. I realized that everyone in my small groups in the Regional was struggling with life just like me. It made me see these strangers as real people with the courage to face their situations and overcome their own obstacles to be better lawyers and to help their clients in ways the brain alone simply cannot help.

What happened for me was a sudden infusion of courage. The courage to try and fail. The courage to allow others to see me try and fail. The courage to get my ass up off the ground where I had been engaged in a self-loathing pity party and to try again, and again, and again without allowing my fears to get in my way. It was empowering and it also gave me a moment to reflect on all the things that I could change in my own attitude and perception of life. It not only gave me courage but it gave me hope. I realized and began to “understand” in some degree of complex awareness that the past is the past, it cannot be changed but by God the future is still unwritten and there are ways to change myself and my attitude that will provide me with a fuller and much more satisfying life.

I left the Regional thinking and contemplating ways to be a better human being, not just a better trail lawyer.


A. Daniel Woska