On August 31, 2010, while on the airplane returning from the week long “interactive” training I generally attend every year in Dubois, Wyoming at the Trial Lawyers College, the thought that weighs heavy on my mind is how do I keep the gifts or lessons learned in the forefront of my mind when I return to my daily life and trial work. This experience each year has generally a good one, both personally and professionally. But it seems this time the experiences were extraordinary this year; for one thing, having a roommate for nine days was extraordinary. But kidding aside, the gifts or lessons taken away from attending my ninth “Trial Lawyers College” post graduate program were seemingly much more powerful this time.
What makes this experience so extraordinary is not so much applying or learning methods of how to be a better trial lawyer or communicator, but the realization that our lives, if they are to be full, are based on relationships we form with ourselves, other people and our world.
In order to have fully developed relationships we have to understand and know who we are. This not only means understanding our feelings about certain issues and thoughts we may have, it also means accepting ourselves for who we are, the good parts and the not so good parts. The exercises and methods employed by the College, whether you are involved in the re-enactment of a personal event of your life, your client’s life, a witnesses’ life or merely observing others doing these things, enables you understand that we all have common issues merely because we are human beings. Watching someone’s reenactment of an important event makes us remember similar events in our lives and can bring back feelings about an event that happened 25 years ago that we may have thought of for many years. Or, we may experience how that event that occurred so long ago makes us feel now, in the present moment. Most of us certainly don’t think we can “feel” an event again five, ten or twenty-five years later but we can using the many methods, including those developed by J. L. Moreno, M.D., the creator of psychodramatic methods.
Once we get to the place where we feel, rather than think about the past event, our truths reveal themselves. Some people don’t want to go to such places; they have compartmentalized an event and don’t want their initial interpretation of the event from long ago to get “out of the box” again. (If we even realize we have stuffed the event and true feelings in a box). A big problem is that our initial interpretation of an event may be wrong and, by “re-feeling” the event, we may re-frame the entire event and find the real truth.
I wish there was a way to keep the feelings, compassion, empathy, understanding and love we have for others after leaving this program permanently ingrained in our psyches. It seems that once returning to the world and culture that I currently live in, I allow the stressers, daily crises, and extraordinary problem solving requirements of being a trial lawyer to forget I can access these qualities of innate human nature that can make life, and practicing law, so much more fulfilling.
I began immersing myself in the College nine years ago, fourteen years after I had begun my law career. During the last nine years I have grown more personally and become a far better trial lawyer than I could have without having done so. I will never stop learning or refreshing what I have learned and forgot. I think the two best ways to keep these humanistic feelings are for one, keep practicing them with other people familiar with the methods and secondly, I help others learn these methods.
A great trial lawyer once told me before I ever went to the Trial Lawyer’s College that Gerry Spence, the founder of the Trial Lawyers College, relates and communicates as well as he does with others because he has incorporated the “thought and feeling processes,” or the psychodramatic methods briefly mentioned above into his life; they are part of how he filters and perceives his world. I can only try to do the same and, if I am successful, hopefully in time able to call upon these techniques or methods to continue to gain a better understanding of myself and others and hence, be in a better position to help others in my role as a trial lawyer.