Meditation on old lawyers
LET’S face it. The young cannot truly understand the old, unless…both open up and become eager to know more about each other. Fantastic? I believe that old people are like ancient cities. There is so much one can learn from there, if one is willing to ask and explore. The young’s energy however is more often than not too clawed up on their respective pursuits they have no more time for all else. What a pity since the old would have interesting things to tell and I’m not only talking of those Icelandic sagas, family traditions and “secret” recipes handed down generation to generation by word of mouth, but old sailors tales how they managed to survive life’s twists and turns.
A few days ago I appeared in court in a far town from Ormoc. Nothing extraordinary happened that day, except that I began to notice old lawyers presence, still active practitioners in the arena. There was something about them that made me a bit uncomfortable in the beginning. How come they still work when they could have “easily” lived retirement life perching down the years writing memoirs to pass on to younger folks. Would have liked to talk to them, query on their experiences but do not know what to say or do. So I just sat on my chair like nothing’s happened although in reality I was observing.
One of them hardly stood (can hardly stand?) during the proceedings, yet his bearing without unnecessary movement or speech, spoke of dignity and style, although I also noticed the case of his eyeglasses embossed in metallic letters: “for the rich and famous”. Yet his objections were exact and substantial, and his language courtly, punctuated by “with pleasure” when he agrees doing to what the court suggested were ways to expedite the hearings. It is the language of cooperation and friendliness. Of reaching our rather than individualized bravado and ego-tripping in court. Attitudes like this make one think that there is still hope in litigation. That is, one may still part
as friends ending up in settlement or plea-bargaining for instance. I was told once that beyond the purely “legal” issues, there are conflicts that outwardly appear “legal” but in reality are mere issues of “pride”, “face saving” and “amor propio” and where the law is used as a vehicle for pent up hate and even unconscious revenge. Back to the old lawyer, heard he was an ex-judge in his heyday and quite strict, though reasonable, in procedure.
Another—older—one arrived, and before I know it I found myself offering him a seat. I thought he is the judge’s uncle since he arrived, of all places, not from the entrance but from the door of the judge’s chamber. Well, that is also where the comfort room is located, where he probably relieved himself. Tottering and with bent frame that seemed almost unable to bear his weight, he was leaning on his metal cane, the kind with four “fingers” at the base. Yet when he spoke one can still discern certain firmness, even strength. It is a voice that has rang in many battles. And those eyes are sharp as eagles.
I wonder what’s on their mind? Looking at us, young enough to be their grandchildren, would they give out knowing smiles looking at our still imperfect trial techniques? At our still hazy legal intuitions, that is, the sixth sense of veteran lawyers able to smell truth from falsehood in a testimony or vanity clothed with respectability? Would they want to help us when we cannot uncrack the hard nut phony alibis and subtle yet devious fallacies passing off as truth? I wonder.
What challenges and trials faced them eyeball to eyeball during their lifetime? Why have they remained strong in spirit, retaining passable sharp wits?
What habits and techniques maintain them that clients continue to entrust their core concerns though their skeletons wobble? On which side of the universal, unchanging principles of truth and
fairness do they stand when confronted with
puzzling, grey and tricky sets of facts? Lastly, are they more interested in justice and fairness rather than the temporal honors reaped by lesser lawyers therefore lesser mortals, who win their ways through unfair influence peddling?
My father never got a chance to answer these questions as he took flight early. Or if ever did, I was not there to listen, or else to young to grasp his words. Indeed old lawyers can do a lot to speak many things to the young. Speak, sirs, for we will listen.
(October 16-22, 2000)