In the early pages of Charles Dicken’s A Christmas Carol, the narrator states that he:
“has always thought of Christmas time as a good time; a kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time; when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of people below them as if they really were fellow-passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys.”
Excluding the obvious classist reference in the statement, it is a powerful commentary on man and womankind.
Scrooge, who has everything society values – money, power, prestige, lacks all things truly worth having; friends, purpose, community, joy, family, love, empathy, connection, respect.
The moral arch of the story is Scrooge’s transformation from one who only values himself to one who is reborn and sees others as fellow passengers in life, worthy of his time, love, caring, and connection.
Hearing these words again this Holiday Season made me (Lauren Ellerman here) think of my profession – the law, and our firm. Who are our fellow passengers? Obviously our colleagues, the clients who hire us, court officials, opposing counsel; but there are less obvious fellow passengers on the journey as well.
I think of the hundreds – thousands of cases and clients we decline each year. Men and women who don’t want to sue but need answers, help, advice on how to handle a medical trauma and there are no other obvious answers to provide them guidance. I think of the people we depose, asking them to tell the truth about care provided, not provided, etc. I think about the people who suffer without help, answers, or assistance.
So why on earth bring up Dickens, Scrooge, or the powerful image of fellow passengers?
The metaphor is one that illustrates exactly what our law firm strives to do.
We strive to:
- treat all who seek our help, as equals
- provide answers and assistance with compassion, and empathy
- help those we can help by traveling with them on a journey of accountability
- provide truth and wisdom in love – rather than in harsh and insensitive ways
Surprised? I hope not. I hope the public perception of lawyers is not so permanently damaged that one seeking our help anticipates a Scrooge dolling out bits of coal begrudgingly.
On a given day, our combined staff spends 10 + hours a day / 50 + hours a week providing free legal advice and resources to those we cannot assist. Why? Because our fellow passengers want and need answers first and foremost and we consider it our privilege to provide these rather than decline to help at all.
So as this New Year dawns, I reflect on Dickens’ words, our law firm, and those who entrust us with our darkest days, and I am grateful. Grateful to be of service to our fellow passengers in life.