DAYL President’s Page
The Ocean of Our Business
I grew up watching various renditions of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol (you know, Scrooge, three spirits, etc.) every holiday season, and this year will be no different. Out of all the timeless lines, scenes, and lessons from that indelible story, one scene stands above the rest, if you ask me. Scrooge comes home on Christmas Eve from a long day at the office and locks himself up in his bedroom, alone, with a cup of gruel before bed. A ghost appears, and Scrooge eventually recognizes him as his long-dead business partner, Jacob Marley. Marley’s ghost tells Scrooge he has been enduring the “incessant torture of remorse” in the seven years since his death, and he bemoans that “no space of regret can make amends for one life’s opportunity misused!” Marley’s ghost is telling Scrooge he now regrets spending his life so focused on material pursuits, including his all-consuming business partnership with Scrooge.
Scrooge, in all his vanity, attempts to console Marley by telling him he measures up in Scrooge’s eyes, leading to this timeless exchange:
“But you were always a good man of business, Jacob,” faltered Scrooge, who now began to apply this to himself.
“Business!” cried the Ghost, wringing its hands again. “Mankind was my business. The common welfare was my business; charity, mercy, forbearance, and benevolence, were, all, my business. The dealings of my trade were but a drop of water in the comprehensive ocean of my business!”
The ghost goes on to warn Scrooge that he’ll be visited by three spirits that night, and the rest is history.
If you haven’t seen it or read A Christmas Carol, I would highly recommend it. While it’s a Christmas story, it’s also a more universal story about our relationship with other people, or duty to them, and how we ought to conduct ourselves. I surely need the reminder every December. I have often thought of the story, and the specific exchange above, during my last nine years in the DAYL, which draw to a close this month.
While I loved this story as a young man, these words from Jacob Marley’s ghost took on new meaning when I became a young lawyer ten years ago, and moreso once I joined the DAYL a year later. You see, as people of business– legal business– it’s easy for us to focus on our professional standing and accomplishments as the most reliable measure of our value. Armed with privilege few ever experience, we can focus almost exclusively on achievement– in the courtroom, in our bank accounts, on your Facebook pages, wherever– and lose sight of the “ocean of our business” Marley recounts to Scrooge. It gets harder as you get further into this results-driven business; I find myself needing to stay even more vigilant and mindful of my obligations outside of our profession.
Luckily, the DAYL has offered me some balance in the first ten years of my legal career, giving me chances and opportunities to serve others (and preserve my sanity) in ways no other group or organization could. It has brought me face-to-face with neighbors experiencing homelessness, with transgender neighbors fearful of violence and in need of shelter and food, with deserving children searching for worthy examples, and with members suffering from depression, anxiety, and mental illness in the face of our profession’s and lives’ challenges.
Take it from me– there is perhaps no greater opportunity to expand your focus– to balance your pursuit of professional achievement with the business of mankind– than the Dallas Association of Young Lawyers. It offers each of us an unparalleled chance to fight for the common welfare. To show more charity, mercy, forbearance, and benevolence to each other and to our neighbors. To re-engage with the “ocean” of our business Marley’s ghost references. And, hopefully, to leave with no regrets that our lives were somehow misused.
While I have plenty of regrets– alas, I could always do more to help and serve others, and not all of the world’s problems are solved– I am grateful and thankful to each of you for the chance to work at your side to chip away at a few of the world’s problems this year. My wife Rachael and I are forever in your debt. You have proven to us what magnanimity and grace we are all capable of. You have shown us what magnificence we each possess. We have witnessed small miracles enacted by each of you over these last nine years. We have watched you fight for each other and for your neighbors– sometimes, total strangers– without any expected return. And we have met two of the most extraordinary people– our dearly departed friends Eliot Walker and Alex Bolton– who will stay in our hearts for the rest of our lives.
You see, while the ocean of our business together surely includes our professional development and advancement– whether it’s through DAYL’s many CLE’s, or our Trial Skills Boot Camp and Deal Boot Camp, our events with the Judiciary, or the other countless programs our organization offers each year– it also includes several other important pursuits. Considering and serving our neighbors. Remembering and helping our colleagues suffering from mental illness and addiction. Protecting immigrants from bullies. Advocating for our women colleagues and their standing in our profession. Lifting up and including our LGBTQ+ brothers, sisters, and siblings. In sum, caring about and loving people more completely and effectively.
Luckily, while my time on the board for the Dallas Association of Young Lawyers– and my limited reservation in your inbox once a month– is drawing to a close, my chance– OUR chance– to help others has no expiration date. Our chances will march on, and the demands for your generosity and compassion have never been greater. I’m confident that each of you will carry on DAYL’s nearly 100 year fight to help and serve others.
Thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for your example, your courage, and your many gifts to me and my family. DAYL has given me and Rachael gifts, friendships and relationships, opportunities, and memories we can never replace. I will always be proud to be associated with you and the DAYL. Happy holidays and best wishes to each of you over the DAYL’s next 100 years of service!