If Wishes Were Horses, Lawyers Would Ride (Equanimity, Part II)

AndrewJacksonEquanimity for lawyers – I don’t think it’s just for those moments when we’re encountering internal struggle. It’s also about how we feel when we know what we’re doing, and people don’t take our advice.

I don’t know about you, but some people in my life matter more than others. And for those people, when I know what I’m doing, I really want them to take my advice.

Take my daughter. The other day she was visiting, and she was going for a run. And wearing all black.

We live in the country. So, sure, the roads are lovely. And they’re filled with big trucks and SUVs. There’s no shoulder, let alone sidewalk.

So of course I said, honey, no one can see you in black.

And my remarkable 26-year-old, who runs everywhere, gave me a withering look.

So I took a deep breath, breathing in that I’d given her some good, solid, advice, and breathing out that anyway, she wasn’t going to take it. Breathing in my concern, breathing out well-wishes, and peace.

I also fell back on one of the oldest mindfulness rules of all, which is, “everyone is the heir to their own karma.”

Fine for my daughter (who arrived home unscathed). But, karma + lawyering? Absolutely.

Karma just means consequences.

And the rule means three things:

  1. Everyone makes their own choices, moment to moment.
    Each choice has a consequence.
  2. No matter what we wish for, other people’s lives are shaped by their choices, not by our wishes.

Or as my grandmother used to say, “if wishes were horses, beggars would ride.”

And if wishes were horses, lawyers would ride, too.

We would ride out and save the day. So many times, I cared very much about my clients, and I wished to be able to ride out and save them when they spoke up in a meeting and demanded too much or went down a bad path, or when they lost their temper at some critical moment, and didn’t get what they wanted.

I wanted to save them from the consequences of their own choices.

But I had already given them good advice. Solid, ethical, forward leading, winning advice. I couldn’t do more. I couldn’t save the day, or the case, or them – not from their own choices. Heck, I couldn’t even get my own daughter to wear something reflective.

I’m guessing you’ve been in my place. You care very much about your clients. And your advice is good and solid and ethical and forward leading, and winning.

And I’m guessing you want very much for your clients to take your advice, so that it leads them forward, and helps them get what they want. And sometimes, even saves them from their own, earlier choices.

But with clients and cases and deals, some just can’t be saved. Some people are too headstrong to take your advice. Or too greedy to take the win/win.

And all you can do – after giving your solid advice – is to sit there and wish, and to breathe.

You can breathe in that no matter what you wish, sometimes there’s just nothing you can do. And then you can breathe out peace, and well-wishes.

This is equanimity practice, and it’s fierce practice. It’s about doing your best every time, and then remembering everyone is the heir to their own karma.

So, the next time you want very much for your clients to win, or have time with their kids, or stay in the U.S., or stay out of jail: offer your good advice, of course. And then take a slow breath, and remember, it’s not up to you.

Each time you do that, each time you summon the courage to do that, each time you remember that if wishes were horses, lawyers would ride, you’re cultivating just a little bit more equanimity. And maybe, a little more peace.

Judi Cohen

Judi Cohen formed Warrior One and created Essential Mindfulness for Lawyers®, nationally recognized for its originality and excellence in integrating traditional mindfulness, groundbreaking neuroscience and the science and psychology of the legal mind. Judi has presented to a wide range of global, U.S. and local firms, in-house legal departments, bench and bar associations, legal conferences, and law schools. Read More