Five for Friday #133: Choose to help

Welcome to #133.

As most of you know, I like to write about something associated with the week’s number.  Any number that includes “33” reminds me of the 2013 Boston Marathon.  So that’s what I’m going to write about, even though I can’t quite formulate the thought I want to express.

When it comes to choices, I’ve never been prone to dwelling on “what ifs” or “whys.”  Rather, I’m a firm believer that we make the best choices that we can and, after making a choice, what’s important isn’t what might have been, but how we choose to deal with whatever resulted from the choice we made.

At the 2013 Boston Marathon I made a choice that often makes me ask myself “why?”

It was my first Boston. After years of failing, I’d finally slayed my white whale and qualified. Not knowing if I’d ever qualify again, I decided “money be damned!” and looked for a hotel as close to the finish line as possible.  What better way  to get the most out of the Boston Marathon experience?  I booked a room at the Westin Copley Place. It’s about a block from the finish line.

Boston is run on the 3rd Monday in April.  That year, I left Vermont on Saturday and planned to return on Tuesday.  Why Tuesday? I wanted to finish, watch others finish, then head to the post-race party for runners.  Again – the total marathon experience.

Anyhow, while I spared no expense for a hotel near the finish, paying Boston rates to park was a bridge too far. Instead, I drove to Lebanon, NH and took the Dartmouth Coach to South Station.  Not being too into packing or planning, I threw everything I might possibly need, and many things that there was no reasonable basis to conclude that I might need, into a gigantic duffel bag.  I thought it was funny that I was so whimsical.

Here’s where “33” comes in.  When it comes to numbers, I’m the opposite of Michael Scott: I’m not just a little stitious, I’m superstitious.  Two of my luckiest numbers are 33 and 17.  The former is for Larry Bird, the latter is for St. Patrick’s Day.  So, you can imagine how happy I was upon checking into the Westin and learning that I was in room 3317.

In the picture below, the Westin Copley Place is the tall building whose roof is between the labels “marathon finish line” and “medical tent location.”   That star-type thing to the left of the finish line marks the spot where the first bomb exploded.

Room 3317 is in the sliver/wedge that, from this angle, is on the top side of hotel.  It looks down on the medical tent.  The room does not have a view of the finish line – the Boston Public Library blocks it.

I ran well that year. My time was 3:20:06.  Boston starts later in the day than most races, so I didn’t cross the finish line until about 1:40 PM.

One of my least favorite parts about running Boston is how far you have to walk simply to exit the finish area. It’s preposterous.  In the image above, racers finish running left to right on Boylston Street, which is the street labeled “marathon finish line.” Then, they continue several blocks down Boylston until finally being allowed to exit the finish area at a spot that is well outside the right edge of the picture.

Once I finished, my plan was to go back to the finish line and watch others come in.  So, I trekked to the exit, walked a block south, then headed back towards my hotel

My plan changed when I got to the intersection of St. James, Dartmouth, and Huntington.  In the picture, it’s at the lower left edge of the green space that’s next to the words “medical tent location.”  Given how the medical tent is set up, nobody is allowed to cut thru the medical area to the finish area.  Frustrated at the logistics, and too lazy to make a 1-block detour, I trudged across the street to my hotel room.

(Aside, every marathon has a medical tent at the finish to deal with whatever ailments afflict runners during the race: cramps, dehydration, etc.  In other words, it wasn’t out of the ordinary for the medical tent to be there. And, at a race like Boston, with 30,000 runners, the medical tents take up a lot of space.)

Once in my room, I called my dad. By then, it was about 2:45. Up until about a week before the race, he’d hoped to attend.  Thank God he didn’t.

As we spoke, I heard bangs.  I assumed that they were fireworks.  I also heard sirens. I didn’t think much of them.  Who doesn’t hear sirens when visiting a big city?  Plus, there were hundreds of thousands of people downtown and, most likely, hundreds of runners suffering from dehydration, cramps, and other marathon-related injuries. Sirens weren’t out of the norm.

My dad and I spoke for a while.  Once we hung up I did what any self-respecting citizen of the 21st century does after completing an activity:  I posted my race result to Facebook.  The post is still there.  It’s time-stamped 3:11 PM.

The bombs went off at 2:49 PM.  The “fireworks” I heard while chatting with my dad were the explosions.

Anyhow, by the time I posted my result to Facebook, the sirens were beyond even what you might write off as the norm in a city.  I looked out the hotel window.  There were dozens of police cars & ambulances surrounding the medical tent and scores of EMTs and police officers swarming the area.  Far more than would be needed to attend to dehydration and cramps.  I was concerned.

I checked my phone.  A close friend and fellow high school basketball coach had just commented on my Facebook post:  “congrats brother. now get out of Boston.”  I was more concerned.

I turned on the tv.  Stations were reporting that there’d been a kitchen fire in a restaurant near the finish line.   Soon, the reports changed: there’d been a bombing and law enforcement suspected that there were other bombs in hotels near the finish.

Bombs in hotels near the finish line?

Panic started to set in.  Part of me told myself “sit down, stay here, it’s a kitchen explosion, things will be fine.”  That part of me lost the internal debate.  I grabbed my giant duffel bag, jammed stuff in, and fled.  I was still wearing the clothes I’d run in, as well as my race bib.

As I left my room, memories of 9/11 made me decide against the elevators.  I took the stairs, 33 flights down.  I ran, hoping to get out before my hotel blew up.

When I reached the bottom, the stairwell opened onto Huntington Avenue.  It was chaos.  A mass of people running away from the finish area.  I ran with the masses.  After just moments, the mass turned back on itself.  Someone had dropped a knapsack in the street and people thought it was a bomb.  So, we ran in a different direction.

A block or two later, I was spit out onto a street that was less crowded.  Not knowing what else to do, I headed for South Station.

Boston’s street pattern isn’t exactly intuitive.  Also, even in a regular year, many streets in and around Copley Plaza are closed during the marathon, even to pedestrians  Combined with the confusion and the security response to the bombings, the effect was disorienting.

It was also terrifying.  Nobody knew what was going on.  People thought the city was under attack.  Police and military were everywhere.  Cell phones weren’t working. I chose streets that looked less likely to be bomb targets.  Writing that, I don’t even know what it means, but it meant something in the moment.

Eventually, I stopped to rest on a bench in a bus stop.  My damn bag was so heavy.  That trip is the last that I so cavalierly stuffed every bit of clothing I might never need into an outrageously & unnecessarily giant travel bag.  Anyhow, I didn’t sit long.  I decided that it wasn’t safe to be inside the glass shelter if and when it shattered in the next explosion.

I made it South Station at 4:45.  My ticket was for the next day, but I asked if I could get on the next bus.  Turns out, when you travel Dartmouth Coach to Boston, the departure date & time on the ticket don’t really mean anything.  A ticket gets you onto to any bus on your route, any day, any time, first come, first serve.  The next bus for Lebanon was at 5:30.  So, I got in line and waited.

Rumors started to circulate that the airports, train stations, and bus stations were going to be shut down.  Just moments  before we boarded, 10 military guys swept thru the station with assault weapons and ferocious German Shepherds.  As we boarded, the PA system announced that the station had been closed and all departures cancelled.  Somehow, our bus driver got us out.

The rest is unimportant. I charged my phone and, once we’d made it about 10 miles north of the city, service returned, I made contact with family and friends.

As for the “what ifs” and “whys” that, in most aspects of life, I never ask myself . . .

. . what if my dad had come? At a marathon, it’s common to plan to meet friends & family near the finish line after the race.  Is that what we would’ve done?  If so, we’d have been standing there when the first bomb went off.

Or, what if I wasn’t so lazy and, instead of trudging to my hotel, had walked one block further in order to get around the medical tent and to the finish line to watch others?

Also, I’ve always found it hard to reconcile the profound impact that the day had on me.  Namely, why was I so scared? I am incapable of describing my fear as I ran from my hotel to South Station.  What I can’t quite reconcile is knowing – with crystal clarity – how scared I was while never once being in a whit of danger.  My experience utterly pales in comparison to those who endured terror up close & personal.  Those who, less than a block from my hotel, had to wade through human carnage to make it to safety.

Finally, I often wonder why I panicked and ran.  Why did I run away instead of running to help?  Trust me, I get it: I’m not a medic and, if not useless, I’d just have been in the way.  But not totally useless. No matter how small, there was plenty of help to be given that day.  Yet it never even occurred to me to run to give it.  My only thought was to get the hell out.  So many others chose to help.  My choice – to run away – bothers me.

But I know I can’t let it.  What I can do is use the experience to remind myself that I have to help whenever I can. I’m not talking about in response to terror attacks or mass disasters.  I’m talking about the myriad moments that arise every single day and in which I can choose to help someone . . . or not.

So as much as the choice I made that day bothers me, I’ve tried to use it to inform future choices.  I choose to help.

Consider the same.  Help wherever and whenever you can. And never forget that the help you give might not change the world, but it might mean the world to the person you help.  Or, as stated much more eloquently in my favorite parable:

“One day, an old man was walking along a beach that was littered with thousands of starfish that had been washed ashore by the high tide. As he walked he came upon a young boy who was eagerly throwing the starfish back into the ocean, one by one.

Puzzled, the man looked at the boy and asked what he was doing. Without looking up from his task, the boy simply replied, “I’m saving these starfish, Sir”.

The old man chuckled aloud, “Son, there are thousands of starfish and only one of you. What difference can you make?”

The boy picked up a starfish, gently tossed it into the water and turning to the man, said,

“I made a difference to that one!”

I ran Boston again in 2014.  I wasn’t in marathon shape, but had qualified and wanted to honor the victims of 2013.  It was cathartic.  The crowd support was indescribable.  A million people cheering and thanking runners.

My brother came to support me.  It was such an emotional day for me that, when I finished, I walked all the way to Boston Common, then sat down and cried.  Soon, my brother was by my side. At that moment, I was a starfish and he threw me back.

Patrick Kennedy made a difference that day.

Make a difference to 1 today.  You’ll never look back and ask why you did.

Onto the quiz.

Image result for boston strong ribbon

Rules

  • None.  Open book, open search engine, text/phone/email-a-friend.
  • Exception – but one that is loosely enforced – #5 (“loosely” = “aspirational”)
  • Unless stated otherwise, the Vermont Rules of Professional Conduct apply
  • Team entries welcome, creative team names even more welcome.
  • E-mail answers to michael.kennedy@vermont.gov
  • I’ll post the answers & Honor Roll on Monday
  • Please don’t use the “comment” feature to post your answers
  • Please consider sharing the quiz with friends & colleagues
  • Please consider sharing the quiz on social media.  Hashtag it – #fiveforfriday

Question 1

There’s a rule that includes a “self-defense” exception for lawyers.  But for the exception, what does the rule generally prohibit?

  • A.  Punching clients.  .
  • B.  Representing a family member.
  • C.  Unauthorized disclosure of confidential information.
  • D.  Unauthorized disbursements from trust.

Question 2

Lawyer called me with an inquiry.  I listened, then said: “it depends, did you receive information that could be significantly harmful to that person?”

My words “that person” refers to:

  • A.  a prospective client who met with, but did not retain, Lawyer.
  • B.  a prospective juror
  • C.  an opposing party who mistakenly emailed Lawyer
  • D.  a current client

Question 3

Lawyer refers Client to Attorney. Lawyer does no work on the matter and does not assume joint responsibility for it.  Under Vermont’s rules, Attorney:

  • A.   Must not share any portion of the fee with Lawyer
  • B.    May share the fee with Lawyer
  • C.    May share the fee with Lawyer, but only if Client consents
  • D.   Must report Lawyer to disciplinary counsel

Question 4

The phrase “reasonable remedial measures” is associated with the rules on:

  • A.  Competence & diligence
  • B.  Trust accounting
  • C.   Client confidences
  • D.  Candor to a Tribunal

Question 5

Lately, I’ve spoken often on lawyer wellness and the staggering rates at which substance abuse and other behavioral health issues affect lawyers.  Which reminds me of a lawyer named Dr. Gonzo . . .

Oscar Zeta Acosta was a real life American attorney, author, and activist. He disappeared in 1974 and hasn’t been seen since.

Acosta was good friends with a famous author.  2 trips that they took together inspired the author to write one of the most well-known novels on 1960’s counter-culture.  In it, the character Dr. Gonzo is based on Acosta.

Name the novel.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Monday Morning Answers: #67

This week’s answers come to you live from Boston, MA.  I’m preparing to run the Boston Marathon.  Unlike most marathons, Boston seeds its start.  Faster runners up front, with runners organized, more or less, in numerical order.

It appears that I’m not one of the favorites:

IMG_2118

Friday’s questions are HERE.  The answers follow the honor roll.

HONOR ROLL

  • Evan Barquist
  • Penny Benelli
  • Beth DeBernardi
  • Laura Gorsky
  • Robert Grundstein
  • Anthony Iarrapino
  • Keith Kasper
  • Patrick Kennedy
  • Nicole Killoran
  • Deborah Kirchwey
  • Elizabeth Kruska
  • Cristina Mansfield
  • Hal Miller
  • Jim Runcie

Answers

Question 1

Which is most accurate?  A contingent fee:

  • A.   Must be fair
  • B.   Must be in a writing
  • C.   Must be in a writing signed by the client; See, Rule 1.5(c) and my blog on the basics of contingent fees.
  • D.  Must not be calculated until after the client’s expenses are deducted

Question 2

Attorney called with an inquiry.  I listened. I replied “It doesn’t matter that your client ‘initiated’ it, the rule still applies.  And the fact that you cc’d your client on the e-mail is not the same as consent.”

What topic did Attorney call to discuss?

Communicating with a represented party.  Specifically, Attorney called to discuss whether by cc’ing her client on an email to opposing counsel she had given opposing counsel permission to contact client directly.  I blogged on the issue HERE.

Question 3

Fill in the blank.

In an advisory ethics opinion okaying the use of a particular type of technology, the Philadelphia Bar Association concluded that:

  • CROWDFUNDING sites can be a beneficial source of funds allowing the public to assist in the assertion of valid legal claims that might otherwise go without recourse. Thus, great care should be taken to make sure that the initial development of such sites not affect the ability of subsequent persons to use such a source.”

My blog on crowdfunding is HERE.

Question 4

North Carolina gained national attention for an amendment to its rules that went into effect last month.  If Vermont were to follow the Tar Heel state’s lead, nearly all lawyers would have a duty that, today, only applies to a subset of the bar.  It’s the rule that, right now, relates to:

  • A.  “Admiralty” lawyers being allowed to advertise their area of specialization
  • B.  Conflicts for defense attorneys who move from a public defender’s office to a state’s attorney’s office
  • C.   Television ads by lawyers who represent large classes of plaintiffs
  • D.  A prosecutor’s duty to disclose evidence that tends to negate the guilt of an accused.  

My blog on the issue is HERE.

Question 5

Earlier this week, three news media organizations were named co-winners of the 2017 Pulitzer Prize for Explanatory Journalism.  The organizations were The Miami Herald, The McClatchy Group DC, and The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists.  

The Pulitzer reflected their efforts on reporting a story that involved, among other things, Vladimir Putin, David Cameron, and offshore shell companies. The story came to light after a whistleblower “leaked” 11.5 million documents that a law firm had stored electronically. Review of the documents resulted in the law firm’s name partners being arrested and jailed on suspicion of money laundering.

By what name is the scandal better known?

THE PANAMA PAPERS

Marathons, Ethics, & Cover-Ups

Saturday mornings aren’t conducive to CLE-type posts on the hottest topic in legal ethics.  Especially unusually warm Saturday mornings that beg for a long run. So, before I hit the road, I thought I’d use  two of my favorite topics, running & ethics, to share a message that’s relevant to both attorney discipline and the attorney admissions process.

Like the law, running has its own code of ethics.  The rules & violations run the gamut from innocuous to the “disbarable.”  For example, it’s not cool to start up front if you know you’re going to finish near the back. The first quarter mile of any race is crowded. Faster runners get irritated, and risk injury, having to dodge someone ambling along, not to mention 3 friends ambling along side-by-side as they chat. But this merits only an admonition.

A more serious (and frequent) violation is the all-too-common instance in which a runner wears headphones during a race. Most races ban headphones for safety and insurance reasons.  Runners know this, but justify it by “I can’t run without music.”  True.  Nor can you hear someone asking to pass you or warn you that a car is coming.  Public reprimand.

Finally, like any other profession or activity in which people are involved, running includes cheaters.  How does a runner cheat?  Taking a shortcut. Or, giving a bib to someone who is faster and then using the result as their own.  Cheating often occurs in an attempt to secure a marathon time that qualifies for the Boston Marathon.  Cheating warrants suspension & disbarment.

Here’s what runner-cheats have in common with lawyers who violate the Rules of Professional Conduct or who lie on their applications for admission to the bar: the cover-up is worse than the crime.

There’s a website dedicated to ferreting out runners who cheat. It’s here. Earlier this week, I was struck by a post on a woman who cut the course at the Fort Lauderdale Half Marathon.

The woman apparently needed to finish in better than 1:24:00 in order to qualify for an elite group within her local running club.  So, she took a shortcut that reduced the distance from 13.1 miles to 11.65.  Then, she lost her mind.

Turns out, after taking the shortcut, she finished 2nd. Instead of simply going home, she stuck around and accepted the award for 2nd place.  Around the same time, race officials became suspicious after noticing that she ran the latter part of the race significantly faster than the early stages.  When confronted, the runner denied having cheated.  Then she really lost her mind.

In an attempt to prove that she’d run the full distance, the woman hopped on her bike and rode the course.  As she did, she turned on her GPS so that she’d have a record of having traversed the full race route.  Then, she posted her “award” and GPS data to social media sites, as well as to Strava, a site that runners use to post their workouts and race results.

Even when initially contacted by Marathon Investigation, the woman didn’t immediately fess up.  Not surprisingly though, the gig soon was up.

Her decision to cut the course was wrong.  But her actions following that decision were worse.

That’s how it goes in attorney discipline and attorney admissions.  A Lawyer who violates the rules, but accepts responsibility, is likely to receive a lesser sanction than the lawyer who commits the same violation but then denies it, blames someone else, or tries to make it look like it never happened.  Similarly, applicants for admission who are candid about their past are far more likely to be approved by the Character & Fitness Committee than the applicant who fails to disclose conduct that,  inevitably, will be discovered in the review process.

In each instance, it’s true no matter how minor the violation or the misdeed left off the bar application.  The violation or misdeed is not the issue: it’s the decision to justify it or try to hide it that is.

So, that’s my tips for lawyers and bar applicants.  If you do something wrong, own it. Life will go on.  Not only that, life will go on in a way that turns out better for you than if you try to cover up conduct that will eventually be discovered.

running-shoe

Monday Morning Answers

Good luck to everyone running in today’s Boston Marathon, especially my club mates from the GMAA. I ran in 2013 & 2014 and have already qualified for next year.  In 2013, my hotel was at the finish line. I will never forget the day.

Before I get to this week’s answers, the questions are HERE.

This week’s honor roll includes two first-times with perfect scores!

HONOR ROLL

Perfect Scores

Honors

  • Matt Anderson, Pratt Vreeland
  • Robert Grundstein
  • Matthew Little, Law Offices of Matthew Little
  • Hal Miller, First American

ANSWERS

Question 1

As of March 31, I am on pace to field 1000 ethics inquiries in FY 2016.  What topic do lawyers most frequently call to discuss?

CONFLICTS OF INTEREST

Question 2

Lawyer called me with an inquiry. I listened and responded “generally, comparisons to others aren’t allowed.”   What did Lawyer call to discuss?

An advertisement or any communication concerning the lawyer’s services.  See, Rule 7.1

Question 3

Under Vermont’s ethics rule on client confidences, lawyers generally are prohibited from revealing “information relating to the representation.”  which is most accurate?

  • A.  The ethics rule is co-extensive with the attorney-client privilege.
  • B.  The ethics rule covers less information than the attorney-client privilege.
  • C.  The ethics rule is more broad than the attorney-client privilegeSee, Rule 1.6, Comment 3.

Question 4

In a major copyright trial pending in federal court, lawyers for Oracle and Google recently agreed:

  • A.  Not to research jurors’ social media presence. See this blog entry from the Wall Street Journal.
  • B.  To waive a conflict of interest, thereby allowing the Los Angeles and New York City offices of the same global firm to represent the tech companies.
  • C.  That 50% of any award of attorney’s fees will be donated to activities that fund access to justice programs
  • D.  That up to 50% of any award of attorney’s fees will be donated to the California state courts in the form of a state-of-the-art online case management system.

Question 5

Name the lawyer who:

  • gained national renown as a criminal lawyer, labor lawyer, and ACLU attorney
  • called Calvin Coolidge “the greatest man to come out of Plymouth Corner, Vermont.”
  • was charged with attempting to bribe two jurors while representing 2 men on trial for blowing up a building in Los Angeles.  He was acquitted, but was banned from ever again practicing law in California.

 

Clarence Darrow and the events related to the bombing of the LA Times building.