As a New York litigator I am used to the back-stabbing, last-minute histrionics, name-calling, arguing that is part of our daily tableau (and that’s how some lawyers just treat each other!). So, when this Westchester attorney gets to do good for someone it gives me the warm and fuzzies inside.
Today, I had to appear in the foreclosure part of State Supreme Court. This is where doom and gloom should hang heavy as people are about to lose the one most personal thing closest to their heart – their home. I say it should hang heavy because it does not. The conference part was crowded with
hard-working people, people well-dressed and who respected the morning’s venue for their appearance. They did not show up in jeans too low to fit correctly or in muscle shirts showing tatted out arms with a huge chip on their shoulder. No, these were victims of our economy but not full of self-loathing and despair. I saw smiles; I saw hope; and I saw compassion, not only from the hearing officers but from the attorneys (well, most of them) who appeared along with me.
This conference is now a required part of the foreclosure process following the mortgage crisis in this country and from what I can gather it’s a good thing. Foreclosures are still on the rise in New York but the stigma associated with it is no longer as strong. We are all in this sinking ship together and the only thing that is going to keep us afloat as a society is the compassion we show for each other.
I helped a man save his home today. He gets another bite at the apple – it’s good for him and good for the bank. As we waited for our “at bat” before the ref, he said to me, “There are a lot of people here about to lose their homes. We just need a little compassion to make things right.”
In law school, they don’t teach us how to make things right. They teach us how to analyze and fight. I remember, during one rough semester, I grabbed onto a copy of the “The Soul of the Law” by Benjamin Sells, a lawyer turned psychologist. He analyzed why lawyers behave the way they do, basically turning everything inside and outside their firm, into a black and white argument – theirs and their adversaries’. Sometimes they lose sight of the person behind the fight. Sometimes they lose their imagination altogether. Sometimes they are so greedy to accrue billable hours that they forget their clients are living hour by hour.
This Westchester attorney needed a reminder that these tough times are hitting all of us, across all economic platforms. It is no time for self-pity and it is definitely no time for greed or loathing. We are all one hour away from stepping into the foreclosure part and we need to remember that compassion is the key to surviving this economic roller coaster.