Monday, September 5, 2011

A Renewed Sense of Purpose

I just finished watching Dear Zachary: A Letter to a Son About His Father. I'm still crying, not only because it was a well told story about a terrible series of tragic events, but also because it hit home on a professional level.

Without going into details, two intertwined centerpieces of this documentary are the judicial and child welfare systems of Canada, and their failures in this particular matter. For those of you who have watched this movie, will watch it (WARNING: lots of tissues are necessary), or those who will simply read about it online, you witness Zachary's grandparents' anger and frustration with the courts and child protective services. I see similar frustration with my clients who are involved in any sort of court proceeding involving children. I've always empathized with their feelings, but as an attorney, I've never been able to divorce my emotions from the knowledge of the limitations of the law, the policy decisions behind the deliberate procedural slowness, and due process concerns, and reach a point of true sympathy. The emotional distance is a blessing and a curse, but this movie unflinchingly shows how it is a curse.

I venture to guess that a lot of attorneys, as well as other professionals, experience times when they are in a rut and don't feel the zeal that once drew them to work. I've been in a bit of a funk lately, not really related to work itself, but in trying to get the closing on my office building scheduled (slow bank + tight funds = tense me). I've just been a little more on edge as of late and I've not been as engaged with work as I like to be, and it's added to the emotional distance between myself and my clients.

Not to sound silly or cliche, but this movie has whipped me back to full attention, full engagement, and full vigor. I am an attorney, someone in whom others trust with their most sensitive problems, the problems that have gone on so long that they can no longer handle them alone. I provide people with information that I take for granted. I am in a unique position to help. Because I'm neck deep in it every day, and am around others who are in it every day, I sometimes forget that I'm in this unique position. But then I see something like this movie, and I'm reminded that I have the capacity- and the duty- to help.