Category Archives: law

Desk job? – heck no!

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As the title of my blog suggests, I am a lawyer by profession, and a solo practitioner. I am thankful for being a solo practitioner because I do not have a typical desk job. Usually I spend my days traveling from courthouse to courthouse within the northern Chicago suburbs (I should say extreme northern – Skokie up to the Wisconsin border). If you have ever seen the movie “the Lincoln lawyer,” that is basically my job, without the driver or the huge brief cases full of $100 bills. This has given me time to practice yoga, run weekly miles toward my marathon training, as well as meditate as necessary.
This week, although technically 3 days, has been all paper and desk work for me. No yoga, running or meditation and the truth is, most people don’t want to be around me right now, because I am the moody shark no one wants to talk to. As a lawyer I have to put in the time, and of course I do, because my clients depend on me. I also do have to put some time aside to get on the mat or run five or six miles a day. It’s one hour, it shouldn’t be a huge deal. Why am I saying this? Because the difference is clear. When I run and/or practice yoga at least once a day, not only am I more productive, I am friendlier, and can better deal with the stress involved in my profession. That leads to everyone being happier an more satisfied.
Things work the way they do for a reason. During law school I interned for a large corporation’s legal department. This was all paper work all day long. My peers are required to bill 60 to 80 hours per week, remember not every hour worked is necessarily a billable hour. Yes, they may be raking in the huge bucks, but when do they have the time to enjoy them? I have had too many close calls to know that life is really way to short to waste it that way. Go ahead, call me crazy, if I have time to write a blog, practice yoga, have a family, spend time playing with my kids, train for and run 3-4 marathons a year why can’t I cut all those things and work at a large law firm? I could, but you wouldn’t be reading about it, and my kids wouldn’t see me, if they would, they would have a miserable pissed off daddy. (I would probably still be 40 pounds overweight, smoking cigarettes, eating fast food – been there – NOT GOING BACK)
That is why I could not have a typical desk job. Yes, I do spend hours at my desk, it is the nature of my profession. But as a solo practitioner, I am able to do the things I enjoy every day. When I am in a hurry and can’t have breakfast, I will put a Beat, a stalk of broccoli, some kale an apple and a cucumber though my juicer, put it in a bottle and drink it on my way to court – it is really very yummy! That is fast food I can drink and feel good about.
These are the reasons why I could not have a typical desk Job. Don’t be surprised if I add certified yoga instructor to my curriculum one day. For now, I am just a practitioner. Tomorrow I will go for a run, and you may then find the friendlier, nicer Bernie again.
Health, peace, love and good running!

Bernie

Live, laugh, love

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How many times have you heard or seen the quote “Live, laugh, Love” and shrugged it as being dumb or cliche? For some reason, this quote has always inspired me and I wish more people lived according to it. Yesterday I relocated my law office to another part of town. I actually returned to the office where I began and had been for a period of four years. I had this fancy office on a major intersection that was simply not working out. Yes, I was visible, but that never brought me clients. One may ask, what does this have to do with that quote? My answer a lot. Returning to a smaller but nicer office has put things into perspective. You don’t need extravagance to feel happy in life. In fact, other than health, a human being needs to live, laugh and love in Order to be happy.
After putting my office together today, I sat behind my desk and a actually felt happy. A happiness and freedom that I have not felt for two and a half years. Yes, I admit it, I was miserable at my last office because I would sit and listen to the sounds of traffic, ambulances, trucks, the hustle and bustle of modern life. All this noise, smell of pollution while waiting for clients that did not come. I realized that as a lawyer, when I do good work for my clients they refer my name, and I get other clients That will find me wherever I am. That is the way it has been and will be. My clients know I am there for them and that I not only look out for their legal interests, I make sure they’re ok in life – that brings me other clients, not a fancy office.
So everything was up including my posters from the 2011 and 2012 Chicago marathons, my diplomas, books, desks and so on. But I looked at the wall in front of my desk and realized there was nothing there at all. Still feeling great from being in my comfort zone, the first thing that came to mind was if I live, laugh and love, I think I will be ok. More on the wall to follow, but first, where does this famous quote come from?
“He has achieved success who has lived well, laughed often, and loved much;
Who has enjoyed the trust of pure women, the respect of intelligent men and the love of little children;
Who has filled his niche and accomplished his task;
Who has never lacked appreciation of Earth’s beauty or failed to express it;
Who has left the world better than he found it,
Whether an improved poppy, a perfect poem, or a rescued soul;
Who has always looked for the best in others and given them the best he had;
Whose life was an inspiration;
Whose memory a benediction.”
Elisabeth-Anne “Bessie” Anderson Stanley (born before 1900) is the author of the poem Success (What is success? or What Constitutes Success?), which is often incorrectly misattributed to Ralph Waldo Emerson or Robert Louis Stevenson.
So, this poem is on point as one who lived well, laughed often, and loved much will achieve success. Yes, I want to be successful, and being in my office today made me realize this is the path to success. Being in a huge office, simply because you are seen by many, who do not need what you have to offer is not a path to success.
As I looked at the empty wall I thought, can I put something there? The question was immediately answered, of course I can, I am my own boss, I am free, i am now happy. So I placed a candle holder, a candle, and decals containing the following words:
Live
Laugh
Love
Now every time I wonder or stare, I will see those remarkable words! These are really words we should all live by!
Thank you to all who read this – you share in my happiness, laughter and love for the world!

Criminal Law and Morality – a yogic analysis

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This post deals with my experience as a criminal defense attorney and an avid yoga practitioner. At one of my yoga classes, I had the privilege of being the only student at the class. So the teacher and I started what turned into a philosophical conversation about whether stealing in extreme circumstances is moral or not. The conversation started when she went to make sure her car was locked due to a recent burglary. I spoke about my role as a defense attorney representing someone accused of burglary and then we were discussing the moral question of epic proportions “is it ok to steal something if the only purpose of doing so was survival?” In other words “if you were starving, would it be ok to steal in order to survive?”

I am sure if we took a poll, something that I have not done, but may do on Facebook to see where people stand, most would say that stealing is morally ok in those extreme cases. But the system in the United States, or at least in the county where I practice, would still prosecute such people to the fullest extent of the law. Having represented cases where the defendant stole food to feed their children, I know first hand that the law made no exception for them. I am not saying that the law should make an exception, but is is moral to prosecute these people to the fullest extent? That is why I am not a judge.

Looking at Pantajali’s yoga sutra 2.9, energy in any human being results in the ultimate desire to stay alive at all cost.

“2.9 Flowing by its own energy, established even in the wise and in the foolish, is the unending desire for life.” Patañjali & Bon Giovanni. “Yoga Sutras.” Sethu Rathinam, 2012.

This reminds me of one of the most intriguing yet disturbing cases I studied my first year of law school. That is the case of The queen v. Dudley and Stephens, 14 Queens Bench Division 273 (1884). This being a case decided by an English court in 1884 clearly dealt with the question of morality before the law. In summary, Dudley and Stephens, the defendants in the case, were cast away in a life boat along with a boy about 17 or 18 years old. They had no food or water on the boat and decided that the only way to survive would be to kill and eat one of themselves. The defendants discussed casting lots but in the end decided to kill the young boy, who was weak and probably would have died anyways, and eat him in order to survive. The court ruled as follows: ” A man who, in order to escape death from hunger, kills another for the purpose of eating his flesh, is guilty of murder; although at the time of the act he is in such circumstances that he believes and has reasonable ground for believing that it affords the only chance of preserving his life.” Id. The advocates for both sides made compelling arguments including necessity (it cannot be murder because it was necessary for their survival), self defense, and many other theories. Having been found guilty of murder, a death sentence for Dudley and Stephens was ordered. The crown however commuted the sentence to six months of imprisonment.
So yes, Dudley and Stephens were found guilty of murder, after long debates about morality and questioning whether what they did was right. Of course the court determined that what they did was wrong, but what is really important to consider here is the final outcome of the case. The fact that the sentence was commuted from a death sentence to six months imprisonment. If this does not excuse the fact that the crime was committed out of necessity than I do not know what does.

Applying theses principles to the person who steals to feed his children, I have yet to have a prosecutor tell me: “ok, what they did was wrong, but given that it was A crime of be necessity for survival, lets commute the sentence to something appropriate.” This still condemns and punishes the person for the illegal activity but takes into account that the alternative to committing the crime would result in a worse outcome for more people.

While practicing yoga, an intention for one’s practice could be Pantajali’s yoga sutra 2.9 ” Flowing by its own energy, established even in the wise and in the foolish, is the unending desire for life.” One should ponder that life in this form is not eternal and making the best experience for ourselves is key. Not by being immoral and being out in situations where we have to question our own morality, but being able to understand why others act the way they do. Being able to forgive is moral, being able to put our judgment of others to the side and helping others overcome difficult moments makes us moral.

This is a tough lesson to swallow, but thank you for reading, peace, health and blessings for a moral future!