Bar Bulletin

December, 2004

 SOLO/SMALL FIRM PRACTITIONER:

BY PAT YEVICS  

"The Yin and Yang of Resolutions"
By Pat Yevics

Each year when I sit down to write this column for the last issue of the year, I go back and read past columns. Writing all these resolutions (and keeping copies) is a double-edged sword. I get the opportunity to see where I succeeded and where I fell short. Like many people, I usually focus on where I fell short instead of where I succeeded.

Resolutions have a yin and yang aspect to them. According to Webster’s New Millennium™ Dictionary of English, in Chinese philosophy, yin and yang are the two cosmic forces of creative energy – yin being feminine/negative and yang being masculine/positive – from which everything originates and depends on the interaction of the opposite and complementary principles.

Although we all want to replace bad habits with good habits in our yearning to be “better,” this constant self-improvement can be exhausting and sometimes just downright depressing. I am afraid I am going to have to live to be 200 before I get it right. Sometimes I just want to shout “This is the best I can do!”, but then I see people who struggle to overcome real problems, and I snap out of it and keep striving.

Before deciding what resolutions we need to make for 2005, whether personal or professional, we must decide what we are doing right or what we like about ourselves. This is important because more can be accomplished if we start from something positive as opposed to something negative. It also helps us to be realistic about we can or even should consider changing or improving. Let’s face it – there are some aspects of what we do or how we act that are not worth taking the time to change.

For example, it is absolutely a waste of time for me to keep trying to have a completely clear desk. I am spending time and energy that is better spent on some other habit that can be modified. I am not a bad person because I have a messy desk or house. I am just messy, nothing else. Instead of trying to keep it perfectly clear, I have decided to file papers more quickly and handle them less frequently. I have created many more files for the papers and projects. It has been fairly successful, and I have reduced a lot of the clutter on my desk. This leaves me time to concentrate on really important tasks that can help members.

Okay, now that you have all decided what is worth keeping (some of these lists will be larger and smaller than others), let’s see what we can work on this year so that next December we will be even better than we are now.

This year we are going to focus on the positive and what we can all do to make the world in which each of us lives a little better. As solo and small firm practitioners, we have a greater ability to make very positive influences on peoples’ lives. We have more control over our own destiny, and so we have a greater responsibility to do more for others. No whining. No negativity. No complaining. We will derive inspiration from a poem by Emily Dickinson:

If I can stop one heart from breaking,
I shall not live in vain;
If I can ease one life the aching,
Or cool one pain,
Or help one fainting robin
Unto his nest again,
I shall not live in vain.

Doing more good for people does not need to take a lot of extra time, but it does take some extra effort.

Those who bring sunshine to the lives of others cannot keep it from themselves.

     - James Barrie

I have developed the habit of being extremely pleasant to absolute strangers. I compliment people on the street or in elevators on their clothing. Most people are quite surprised, but they always say “thank you” and smile in return. The next time you are waiting in line or in an elevator, give someone a compliment. They will feel good, and you cannot help but feel good yourself.

If you think about what you ought to do for other people, your character will take care of itself.

     - Woodrow Wilson

Most of us lead fairly easy and affluent lives. Most of us have more than we will ever need or use. This year, resolve to buy less and consume less and to put what little you have saved toward a favorite group or charity. It is also important to teach our children to do the same. If we buy one less latte every day for the next year, that extra $500 - $1,000 can make a huge difference to a small charity.

I know that many of you already make generous contributions to charities of all types, you and are to be commended. However, this one small effort will show how it easy it is to do even more.

Learning is like rowing upstream: not to advance is to drop back.

     - Chinese Saying

Even though CLE is not mandatory in Maryland, it does not mean that you should pass it up. Spend the time and money to attend some CLE beyond your usual programs.

Learn something new, whether it is something about a new practice area or a new technology. If you are not as comfortable with technology as you should be, take a class and improve your skills. This will keep your mind active and alive.

We make a living by what we make. We make a life by what we give.

     - Winston Churchill

I know that time is very scarce, especially for solo and small firm practitioners. We have so much on our plate. I still believe that we all need to find a little extra time to volunteer, especially for organizations that help those in need, or children or the elderly.

When I visit my mother, who has been in a nursing home for the past three years, I always walk up and down the hall saying hello and complimenting the other residents. It makes a very difficult time much easier because it still amazes me how much joy you can bring to people just by telling them how nice they look or by holding their hand.

Teach your children to volunteer. Let’s create a generation of civic-minded people.

I hope you all have a wonderful holiday and a prosperous and generous 2005. I look forward to seeing you all at Solo Day 2005 at the Annual Meeting in June.

And remember the words of William James: “The greatest use of life is to spend it for something that will outlast it.”

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