Life is painting a picture, not doing a sum. As twenty men of genius looking out of the same window will paint twenty canvases, each unlike all the others, and every one great, so, one comes to think, men may be pardoned for the defects of their qualities if they have the qualities of their defect. – Chief Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes
Amid the flurry of gaiety, holiday receptions, gift giving, and tying up loose ends, it is essential that we stop and reflect on what distinguishes us as lawyers. Being a lawyer is not about making a lot of money or having a corner office with a view. As lawyers in a constitutional democracy, we have the knowledge necessary to enforce certain rights and the skills to make our voices heard in the appropriate forum.
Along with our good fortune comes a higher calling, or an obligation to do things not because we expect to see an editorial in our local paper praising us for having undertaken this or that pro bono initiative, but because such service is the right thing to do. This is a time to remember that even the most unlovable human beings must be accorded due process and other rights under our state and federal constitutions, regardless of public support or criticism.
As lawyers, we often notice a lack of understanding among people who should know better. This applies to the concept of three separate, co-equal branches of government, as in legislative, executive and judiciary. It also applies to differences among the responsibilities of local, state and federal government. As lawyers we should create “teachable moments” to remind our citizenry that the rights and safeguards accorded by our state and federal constitutions should not be taken for granted.
We at the BBA wish you all good things in the coming year!