The Most Solid Foundation

•2012/08/21 • Leave a Comment

A long time ago, it feels, I started the process of getting through law-school. And throughout that time, a new perspective has seeped into my brain, enveloped my world-view, and impacted my Life.  This is one of those of which it is somewhat embarrassing to confess publicly. Or even privately.
Submerging beneath a surface in falsehoods, will ultimately leave you to drown.

In undertaking to enter Law, one does not (at least, not in my case) just read about it. Or memorize a pile of factoids.  You have to enter a new world, and become sensitive to new ways of looking at the world. My own preconceptions about the Law profession had not given me a true impression. Because probably the most powerful, overriding principle that I gleaned from my law-school education is that of Integrity.

Now, I see much more clearly how Integrity, of itself, impacts so profoundly the quality of our lives and our standing in the world. And I don’t think that most of us actually “have it”. That is,  speaking for myself, it had not been the word that sounded prominently in my mind every time when I weighed choices. We may have good intentions. We want to be “good people,” we may be empathetic and care deeply about all living creatures — but to be totally keen on Integrity, of and in itself, is a different matter.

When I read the law casebooks and encounter the great rulings by such as J. Cardozo or J. Learned Hand, I was touched deeply by their brilliant, and earnest, striving to achieve Justice. These were sharp, intelligent men: well-read, skilled in rhetoric, and able to reason with involved logic while balancing opposing viewpoints. Beyond that, they recognized the difficulty of applying theoretical principles to the muddy real-world scenarios that Life delivers us into. It seems to me, that (in the great rulings that inspired me) they didn’t hang back. They rolled up their sleeves and delved into the mud, to sort out the known from the unknown and glean the hard facts and strike the best balance possible.  For Justice, they created the best system of law ever achieved in the history of humankind.

Contrast this with the common, cynical attitude that most Americans take toward lawyers (it seems). It is popular to deride lawyers as amoral bloodsuckers out for nothing but to profit off of the conflicts of others. And who can’t change a lightbulb.  I have heard the reference to the woman who spilled coffee on herself in McDonald’s and sued for a million dollars, proffered to illustrate how onerous our legal system has become.

What I experienced in school, and have been encountering in the workplace is a different story. Yes, there are individuals who seem to me to have lost their focus or who are just downright nasty, but no more than in the world in general and, quite possibly, far less.  There are lawyers who will refuse to do anything that demeans their integrity or the dignity of the Court, even for money and even if it is perceived that they would not get caught. I see lawyers who strive very hard for their clients, to serve society and do the best job they possibly can, and for not a lot of pay.

Lawyers in California have to take the MPRE (Multi-State Professional Responsibility) exam and pass it before they can be licensed to practice. This is apart from the BAR Exam which is a grueling three-day marathon of torture. While in school, we had to take a Professional Ethics and Responsibility class, to prepare for this — and because the Bar has made it a prime focus to prepare all law students for a career that reflects a common code of ethics.  I found this fascinating. And inspiring. It was as though the phrase itself began to acquire a new taste in my mouth. I wanted to know all the “rules”, and how to perform like a gentleman of Integrity in every possible scenario. Of which there are many — sometimes there is no straightforward answer to the question of which action to take. Thus our class discussions, and in-class hypos, were animated and interesting.  I don’t see how anyone can come through that without acquiring a sort of reverence for the Law Profession and for Integrity in general.

What I have also begun to notice, is that for many people some of their problems that they are dealing with would have been avoided had they adhered to a strong principle of Integrity.  Myself included.  Some do just automatically seem to have it, and some don’t and don’t care. And some strive to reach it.  I do think that the advantage of not having always having had it, is that it (should) leave us more able to empathize with the mistakes of others.  A man can, with determination and will, reforge himself into a better person.  I think perhaps that also creates a deeper appreciate and understanding of how it impacts all of us, than if we had been just perfect to begin with.

So my advice to you who are starting out in business, or are already in business but having problems, and most especially — for those starting a career in Law, is to build the most solid foundation under your feet that you possibly can. The substance of that foundation is Integrity. If it has ever been lacking in your life, then you should print a shining emblem of it and mount it into a frame bigger and more elegant that your school diploma and hang it upon your wall as a constant reminder of your new direction.

What does this mean?  It means when your customer calls to complain and irritate you, don’t evade and don’t ever, every lie. Just say the truth. If the truth is embarrassing, so be it.  Couch it in diplomatic terms if you will; if you can omit details without creating deception, that’s fine — but keep your eye on that certificate to yourself on your wall.  If you have to take a loss (and miss your chance to buy that new tablesaw for your workshop) in order to make good on your promise to your client — do it without equivocation. It means if you are accidentally overpaid, that you return the part you did not earn. If you borrowed something with a promise to repay — you repay. You do what you say you will do. And beyond that, you keep in regular contact with those with whom you have a fiduciary duty, you respond, and fulfill your role and do it correctly.

And if you are a lawyer, that means never, ever taking the shortcut that constitutes a falsehood or undermines your Integrity in other ways. That can make your tactics a bit harder to do. You may have to give up some clever schemes that might have been fun to pull off.  It might even mean you lose a case.  If your client provides you with a healthy retainer, but you discover you cannot serve her needs as hoped — you return that money (you did deposit it into your client trust account, right?) no matter how nice it would be not to. Even if it feels as though your financial situation is caving in.

If that foundation is solid, then your house will not fall. Future encounters will go just a bit better, because people learn over time that the words coming out of your mouth are something they can rely upon. They will respect you. Judges will take you more seriously. Others will be more likely to give you the benefit of the doubt, or to give you credit, or to trust you with great responsibility.  I imagine that, sitting across the table from a DA trying to negotiate a plea bargain, you would find him more receptive if he just knows that everything you say to him  is the truth.  Even if you have lied many times in the past, you can take on a new attitude and it will start to show.

It makes me squirm when on the televised news someone is indicted for corruption or other offense, and the lawyer whom they had just hired scant minutes before appears before the cameras to proclaim the suspect’s innocence and insult the prosecution for their witch-hunt.  It demeans the dignity of the profession of Law, and people come to intuit that what is coming out of this lawyer’s mouth is puffery. He is positioning and being politic. And (I believe) he is stomping on his own integrity with big muddy boots.

In such events I think it is better to say nothing (in public) of what the defense attorney believes regarding the innocence of the client. He can recite facts (if permissible in this event), and remind us of the rules of law that require a level of evidentiary proof before that suspect may be called guilty. But whether he actually believes his client is guilty or liable, he should not publicly say this either way. If he proclaims his clients’ innocence when he truly believes them to be innocent, but displays a contrasting silence when he has the client whom he believes at that moment to be guilty, that of itself would undercut his ability to represent that client because his silence would become a signal of guilt. Thus, discretion is the only recourse. Do not claim anything that you do not know for a fact to be true.  Serving as an officer of the Court (as lawyers are also regarded), and the cause of Justice, is better advanced by showing a sincere determination for truth and fairness, as opposed to just “winning.”

Integrity comprises the most solid Foundation that you should build your business upon, and you must treat it always as your utmost priority.

Life’s Genesis

•2010/09/30 • Leave a Comment

james w. hurst

The word "random" seems to invoke images in people’s minds of an insipid, cold, unfeeling, utterly amorphous thing that is devoid of meaning or beauty.

To the ‘religious’ (in the traditional sense), when they look upon some wondrous work of Nature – say a sand-dune or a shore of crashing waves, or a verdant forest

peacockinkabulw.jpg

they’ll exclaim that it’s one of the wonderful "works of god" as though he were some individual who personally produced it in his workshop and erected it.

I’d like to suggest that perhaps we have a mistaken notion of what the term "random" entails.

Take the concept of the evolution of life itself. One of the main objections I have heard to it, is that it involves "randomness" which many have a hard time resolving against the beautiful designs that Nature yields.

But perhaps Nature is not all about tending asymptotically toward ever-greater entropy, like the ice crystal that melts and then evaporates, losing all recognizable form. Perhaps, even in the churning maelstrom of the planets and stars, of the roaring volcanoes and crashing oceans and blowing winds, within all of that chaos and violence there is some hidden scientific principle that given the right chemical conditions, organization does arise out of it. And that approaches the best definition of Life that I’ve yet heard: self-organizing reproducing matter. Declare within this if you will that the Hand of God be seen, but I’d like to suggest that a clearer path toward learning is the one that deconstructs our childhood tales and begins anew.

Galaxy M106 I find it less satisfactory, to imagine that some huge deity waved his hand and things sprung out of midair by magic. That feels to me like some child’s explanation, which I’ve long ago outgrown. It’s far more fascinating to contemplate that that some principle that is an integral component of the Universe itself, of all matter and energy, that gives rise to the beauty that is Nature – that that is what gives rise to Life.

In truth, the Creationists are wrong about Evolution and about the nature of ‘theories’ in general. That’s one of the major failings of a religious upbringing: it neglects a true scientific education and promotes ignorance.

Evolution, is the mechanism by which the vast variety of Life came to be on this planet. Evolution is well-understood in all but the very earliest stages where life first arose from organic molecules, and.. who knows.. perhaps those in turn were designed by some humanoid being or fell from space. With no fossil records from those earliest days, we can only make educated guesses. But it is indisputably clear that over the past hundreds of millions of years life changed, experimented, made false starts and backtracked, and moved about like an adventure through a vast labyrinth, in a story more fascinating then any book of fiction. It is the basis of much of our progress in biology, and it makes no more sense to deny it than it does to deny the existence of electricity or the Moon. If it conflicts with some ancient people’s holy books, then obviously it’s time to revisit the explanations within those books and update them. Or, perhaps, to discard them.

It’s nice to have books of poetic feel-good explanations of one’s Universe, but when we forget that it’s just feel-good sounds, just childish poetry, and start to mandate it to our schools and shove it down our children’s throats as "gospel" then we open the potential for grave damage to our society. One of the ways in which that damage manifests, is when we (as many do) use that divine-creation story to justify the denigration of other species. We as a society, in the U.S. and elsewhere, today treat animals horribly — in ways that exceed even the crimes of the Holocaust or slavery. The evidence is pervasive and undeniable.

 Kinship Circle-one excellent fact source.

It merits mention that the worst terrorist attack upon the United States, that which happened on Sept 11th, 2001 – was a result of religious brainwashing. It was not an attack which had military objectives, no political statement. It was craziness. The kind of insanity that only religion seems to give rise to.

A true quest for the genesis of Life is better served by directing our curiosity toward discovering why. What is it that gives rise to self-organizing things out of utterly chaotic processes. I believe there is basic science there yet to discover — deep meaningful principles that perhaps can be expressed as beautiful new laws of physics. By accepting that we are but one of a large family of living creatures, we enable a start along the path of compassion and comprehension that would lead to our learning to live in responsible harmony instead of our anthropomorphic prejudice that leads to the destruction of everything we encounter.

monkeyinzooinabkhaziaw.jpg

The Parking Problem

•2010/09/27 • Leave a Comment

The Parking Problem

There’re a number of cities in the U.S. which have poor provisions for parking your car. This one factor can make the difference between it being a desirable place to go, and being one to avoid! New Orleans rates poorly here. As does Philadelphia. But the worst I’ve yet encountered, is New York City. The parking situation in NYC is out of control. It’s contemptible; it’s so BAD that it should be considered criminal.

When you try your best to park legally, and considerately, and yet still find tickets affixed to your car window on a regular basis, there is something wrong.

When a city steals your car, despite being legally parked, and demands thousands of dollars to get it back — this is equivalent to auto theft. At this level the parking becomes so enormously expensive, that the city government actually competes with car thieves in how oppressive a factor it represents in the lives of ordinary citizens.

Parking can be a huge problem. You can’t visit, you can’t go to work, and you can’t even go home — if you have to drive and you cannot park your car. It does not need to be this bad, as it is in NYC. Here are some suggestions — a list of steps to solve this problem..

1.No more fire-hydrant restrictions. The fire company ought to know where their dam hydrants are. All space is valuable, and we need THIS space.

2.The street-cleaning restriction needs to relax. Just once a week, instead of twice a week. And if possible – it should happen after-hours, or at least some streets be after-hours or on weekends. In the neighborhood I happen to live in, my street has twice-a-week cleaning, and the next street over has none. I do not see any difference in their cleanliness. None! I suspect this is an annoyance that is completely unnecessary.

3.There should be no limit regarding how close you park to the corner intersection. Why complicate this? Just let people abut the very corner itself. That makes it simple to park, simple to enforce, and yields more parking spaces.

4.If you do get towed, you should have exactly ONE place to go to take care of it. Not three or four as in NYC. The NYC system is especially ridiculous since the locations are not even close to one another. You’ve suddenly found yourself on foot — how’re you going to get around?!

5.Tow authorities must be open 24/7, or at least have weekend hours.

6.There are way too many no-parking areas. Eliminate all except only the most absolutely essential places. And what the heck does "No Standing" mean?

7.Provide heavily discounted (or free) parking for mopeds, motorcycles and small cars (especially those of a size like the SmartCar),SmartCar to encourage these. Also reduce or eliminate the registration fees for them, the toll fees, and the auto insurance. Citizens should be ‘taxed’ according to the cost of their activity upon society: a bicycle costs the city nothing. Zip. So it should be a legal requirement that every place of business provide for safe, free bicycle parking. A SmartCar that takes 1/2 or 1/3 the parking space of a full-size car, should be heavily discounted in cost, or made free. Motorcycles, likewise, should be allowed free or heavily-reduced parking.

8.Be sensible with the required documents to pick up your towed vechicle. Do not require auto-insurance for picking up your car after it’s towed. That’s a driving requirement, not a retrieve-my-property requirement. The only actual need should be for a positive id (a driver’s license should suffice – you already had to jump through id-probative hoops to get that!). They should already know whether you own your car – it’s a matter of public record.

9.For an advanced-technology solution, I envision a system that simplifies parking substantially by using an integrated wireless control, GPS, and smart GIS. For example, when you park in a pay-to-park location, it should indicate on-screen A. Can you park here. B. The hourly rate, and when must you come get it out of this spot. C. Automatically charge your account. D. If you can’t park here, where exactly is the nearest available spot? E. Are there nearby spots that are less expensive?

This system would take into account the size/type of vehicle you have, and show an obvious green light to indicate your account is good. Let’s say, for example, these are all mounted in a standard location on the windshield, directly behind the rear-view mirror. This way, a parking enforcement officer can simply drive past, and as long as it sees only green lights, those cars cannot be touched. Saves time on both sides, saves frustration, makes the whole process simpler and more cost-effective. This ought to be a great opportunity for an enterprising entrepreneur.

By notifying the driver of other, cheaper places to park – you are in effect using the free-market system to encourage parking efficiently. For example, say parking right on the corner does hamper visibility to other drivers. But not terribly much. You don’t want to necessarily prohibit parking there, just mildly discourage it when other parking is available. You don’t want to take that spot out of the equation. So, you simply post a higher parking rate there, relative to the surrounding area. This higher rate may apply only to cars, not to motorcycles or mopeds that don’t block your view. Or it may apply only to vans and SUVs and not cars. The essential point being, you apply gentle economic pressure to encourage the most efficient parking behavior possible.

10.Ultimately, of course, the population level of any given city just needs to be limited to some sensible level. You can make it more efficient using the above-mentioned steps, but if the population grows to overwhelm your improvements, what has it gotten you? If you improvement your parking system to accommodate 50 percent more cars, but your car-driving population grows by 50 percent, you gain nothing. Ultimately, a city needs to recognize that there are limits to how dense a population can go to.

 

james w. hurst

Starting LawSchool

•2008/08/06 • Leave a Comment

This year I began the Juris Doctor curriculum at California School of Law.  I’m going to here collect notes to document my journey toward becoming a lawyer – with tips and advice that I collect along the way for the benefit of other lawschool students.

Thus far, I’m genuinely impressed with the professionalism of the California School of Law and with the personel who run it. They’re been gracious, polite, helpful, and very professional. I’ve a few caveats of which I’ll write a bit later, but overall I have to report that I’d recomment this school highly for anyone seeking their law degree via the online option. That given, it’s not for everyone. This school is tough, and it’s challenging. But if you’re serious and want a top-quality education and the best possible chances of qualifying to sit for the bar in your state and becoming a practicing attorney, that’s what you want.

Life’s Genesis

•2007/07/20 • Leave a Comment

james w. hurst

The word "random" seems to invoke images in people’s minds of an insipid, cold, unfeeling, utterly amorphous thing that is devoid of meaning or beauty.

To the ‘religious’ (in the traditional sense), when they look upon some wondrous work of Nature – say a sand-dune or a shore of crashing waves, or a verdant forest

peacockinkabulw.jpg

they’ll exclaim that it’s one of the wonderful "works of god" as though he were some individual who personally produced it in his workshop and erected it.

I’d like to suggest that perhaps we have a mistaken notion of what the term "random" entails.

Take the concept of the evolution of life itself. One of the main objections I have heard to it, is that it involves "randomness" which many have a hard time resolving against the beautiful designs that Nature yields.

But perhaps Nature is not all about tending asymptotically toward ever-greater entropy, like the ice crystal that melts and then evaporates, losing all recognizable form. Perhaps, even in the churning maelstrom of the planets and stars, of the roaring volcanoes and crashing oceans and blowing winds, within all of that chaos and violence there is some hidden scientific principle that given the right chemical conditions, organization does arise out of it. And that approaches the best definition of Life that I’ve yet heard: self-organizing reproducing matter. Declare within this if you will that the Hand of God be seen, but I’d like to suggest that a clearer path toward learning is the one that deconstructs our childhood tales and begins anew.

I find it less satisfactory, to imagine that some huge deity waved his hand and things sprung out of midair by magic. That feels to me like some child’s explanation, which I’ve long ago outgrown. It’s far more fascinating to contemplate that that some principle that is an integral component of the Universe itself, of all matter and energy, that gives rise to the beauty that is Nature – that that is what gives rise to Life.

In truth, the Creationists are wrong about Evolution and about the nature of ‘theories’ in general. That’s one of the major failings of a religious upbringing: it neglects a true scientific education and promotes ignorance.

Evolution, is the mechanism by which the vast variety of Life came to be on this planet. Evolution is well-understood in all but the very earliest stages where life first arose from organic molecules, and.. who knows.. perhaps those in turn were designed by some humanoid being or fell from space. With no fossil records from those earliest days, we can only make educated guesses. But it is indisputably clear that over the past hundreds of millions of years life changed, experimented, made false starts and backtracked, and moved about like an adventure through a vast labyrinth, in a story more fascinating then any book of fiction. It is the basis of much of our progress in biology, and it makes no more sense to deny it than it does to deny the existence of electricity or the Moon. If it conflicts with some ancient people’s holy books, then obviously it’s time to revisit the explanations within those books and update them. Or, perhaps, to discard them.

It’s nice to have books of poetic feel-good explanations of one’s Universe, but when we forget that it’s just feel-good sounds, just childish poetry, and start to mandate it to our schools and shove it down our children’s throats as "gospel" then we open the potential for grave damage to our society. One of the ways in which that damage manifests, is when we (as many do) use that divine-creation story to justify the denigration of other species. We as a society, in the U.S. and elsewhere, today treat animals horribly — in ways that exceed even the crimes of the Holocaust or slavery. The evidence is pervasive and undeniable.

 Kinship Circle-one excellent fact source.

It merits mention that the worst terrorist attack upon the United States, that which happened on Sept 11th, 2001 – was a result of religious brainwashing. It was not an attack which had military objectives, no political statement. It was craziness. The kind of insanity that only religion seems to give rise to.

A true quest for the genesis of Life is better served by directing our curiosity toward discovering why. What is it that gives rise to self-organizing things out of utterly chaotic processes. I believe there is basic science there yet to discover — deep meaningful principles that perhaps can be expressed as beautiful new laws of physics. By accepting that we are but one of a large family of living creatures, we enable a start along the path of compassion and comprehension that would lead to our learning to live in responsible harmony instead of our anthropomorphic prejudice that leads to the destruction of everything we encounter.

monkeyinzooinabkhaziaw.jpg