February 24, 2018

I’ll Believe It When I See It

Last week, I wrote about one of the challenges that I have as a lawyer, which is the failure of many of my clients to understand the nature and extent of the work I do for them. Much of what I do as an attorney is hidden from my clients.

When I represent a client on a personal injury case, if I’m able to get the case settled without having to file a lawsuit, it customarily takes from 18 to 22 months to conclude the case. If it becomes necessary to file a lawsuit, it can take up to five years from the date of the injury to get the case resolved.

During the time that I work on a client’s case, there is not much that I do that my client can see, touch, hear, smell, or taste. At the end of the case when I collect my fee, which can at times be substantial, I want my clients to understand the breadth and scope of the work that I performed for them. So what is it that I can do to help them understand the extent of the work that I do on their behalf?

From the beginning of time, man has been a visual creature. The serpent seduced Eve to bite into the apple in part because it was so visibly appealing. I suppose you could call the serpent the first advertising and marketing expert that ever existed. He crafted a compelling and irresistible message that enticed Eve to defy God.

After he described the apple as being beautiful, delicious, and life changing, he appealed to her pride by saying, “All you have to do is bite into it to be like God.” There is no doubt that the tree and its apples were beautiful and inviting to the eye. But it was her ability to actually see in her imagination the future that the serpent painted for her — a future that promised that she and Adam would have the same powers as their God — that convinced her to act.

I’m sure you’re familiar with the saying, “I’ll believe it when I see it.” That’s what Saint Thomas said after our Lord’s apostles reported to him that Jesus had risen from the dead. Our Lord later reprimanded him for his lack of faith and said, “Blessed are they who have not seen and have believed.” John 20:29

February 17, 2018

The Challenge of Being in a Service Business

Last month, on January 21, 2018, I celebrated the 35th anniversary of the opening my law practice. I graduated from law school in May 1982, and received my license to practice law in November 1982. Two months later, on January 21, 1983, I rented an office from an established Peoria attorney.

Nine years later (1992), I hired my first associate attorney. At that time, I was 35 years old. The attorney that I hired was 10 years younger than me, and had just graduated from law school.

At the time that I hired the attorney, I had an office manager, two full-time secretaries, a full-time receptionist, and a part-time secretary. Hiring an attorney was a big step for me, and I didn’t feel as though I knew enough about running a business to continue to move forward without some assistance.

The same year that I hired the attorney, I signed a contract with Gerber Business Development Corporation to provide me with coaching on how to properly run and grow my business. I had committed to paying the attorney a large salary and I didn’t want to make any catastrophic mistakes in managing and growing my law firm.

I found out about the Gerber company when I read a book that was written by its founder, Michael Gerber. The title of the book was, The E-Myth: Why Most Small Businesses Don’t Work and What to Do About It. What Gerber said in his book about small businesses in America hit a raw nerve with me.

I had previously represented several business clients who had done well for a while and then, for one reason or another, had made mistakes that caused their businesses to fail. I had also handled several bankruptcies for individuals who had failed in their own businesses. Many of the businessmen that Gerber wrote about in his book reminded me of my own clients and their failure to succeed in their businesses.

February 10, 2018

The Death of a Special Christ-Like Priest

Georgette and I met on August 4, 1978, when we were both 21 years old. We were married in June 1980, while I was on break from law school. Ten months later, in March 1981, we had our first child, Harry. I graduated from law school in May of the following year.

We moved back to Peoria during the summer of 1982. At that time, Georgette was pregnant with our second child, Anna. I started my law practice in January 1983, and Anna was born the following month. We had our third child, Maria, 13 months later, in March 1984. When Maria was born, I was 26 years old.

It was during this period of time that my mom and my sister Colleen started commenting about how I had become too serious and I needed to lighten up. Colleen is a year and a half younger than me, and of my eight sisters, she was the one I was closest to while we were growing up.

When my mom and sister told me that I had become too serious, I hadn’t realized that my behavior had changed from the young, carefree guy who liked to have a good time and tease other people to an older guy who felt overwhelmed by the burdens of life.

But I wasn’t bothered by their comments about my being too serious. To me, that was what responsible adults did — they grew up and did their best to care for and support their families. In some respects, my mom and my sister were correct. My newfound responsibilities made me feel overwhelmed. At times, I felt as though I was doing well just to keep my head above water. Georgette and I had three babies in three years — Maria was born on Harry’s third birthday — and I was doing my best to support my family while managing my law practice.

Now, more than 30 years later, Georgette and I have 13 grandchildren, with three more on the way. I’m still serious, but I’m having more fun now than I’ve had in years. I’ve given myself permission to lighten up and revert to my childhood when I’m around my grandchildren. Their parents sometimes get irritated with me because they think I get their children riled up too much. But that’s OK with me, because I’m finally able to do what my mom and my sister wanted me to do all those years ago.

February 3, 2018

A Dream & The Greatest Showman

I recently joined my wife and some of our children at a local theater to see the movie, The Greatest Showman. The movie is a musical about the life of P.T. Barnum. It begins when Barnum is a boy. He is the son of a poor tailor who does work for a wealthy man. The man looks down on Barnum and his father, because of their lower-class status.

Barnum is a fun-loving boy who is infatuated with the wealthy man’s daughter. The man knows that Barnum likes his daughter and makes it clear to Barnum that he’ll never be good enough for her. After that, the daughter is sent to finishing school for several years. While she is away at school, she and Barnum continue to keep in contact by writing letters to each other.

Years later, when the daughter returns home from school, she is reunited with Barnum. They end up getting married and starting a family. After borrowing money from a local bank, Barnum buys an old museum building in downtown Manhattan. He then sets up Barnum’s American Museum, which showcases wax figures.

After struggling to make his new business work, Barnum’s children tell him that instead of featuring wax figures, he needs to have characters who are “alive.” Barnum likes the idea and begins searching for and hiring “freaks” to serve as performers. As he is rounding up his new cast of characters, Barnum sings the unique and mesmerizing song, Come Alive.

As Barnum’s new show gains popularity in New York, a reporter for the New York Herald is highly critical of Barnum and his “freak show.” The reporter’s columns about Barnum and his show stir up trouble among certain people in the community, including the upper-class members of the community.

To enhance his reputation with the upper-class, Barnum convinces Philip Carlisle, a local playwright from a wealthy family, to join him in his business. To raise Barnum’s status, Carlisle arranges a trip to Europe for Barnum and his cast of characters to meet Queen Victoria.

January 27, 2018

Why is That Church in a Music Video?

I’ve written before about how I was involved in music during my high school and college years. When I was a senior in high school, I formed a barbershop quartet with three of my friends. I did the same thing in college. While my high school quartet had a limited number of performances, my college quartet performed at several community functions and events.

I’ve always been a big fan of quartets and other a cappella groups. One of the groups that I currently pay attention to is Home Free, an American a cappella singing group that consists of five young men. Home Free got its big break in 2013, when it won a competition on the NBC television show, The Sing-Off. The grand prize that year was $100,000, plus a recording contract with Sony.

Last month, Home Free performed at the Peoria Civic Center. Georgette and I attended the show with some friends. My favorite Home Free song is How Great Thou Art. The music video of the song is posted on YouTube. The video has generated more than 13 million views.

In the video, the group is standing on a hill that is surrounded by several hundred acres of land. The scenery in the background includes cascading slopes and mountains. The beautiful harmony of the group is matched by the gorgeous land that surrounds them. The only building in the video is a small country church, which shows up in a field near the end of the video.

I have the video saved on an iPad that sits on a stand on my bathroom counter. Ordinarily, when I’m in the bathroom in the morning getting ready for work, I use the iPad to play educational, self-improvement, or religious recordings. In the evening while I’m getting ready for bed, I usually use the iPad to listen to music.

My son, Harry, and his wife Kathryn live about five minutes away from where my wife and I live. Because they live so close to us, they’re able to stop by our house to visit on a regular basis. Whenever they stop by for a visit, their two oldest sons, Harry and Liam, immediately start looking around the house for me. Harry is 5 years old and Liam is 3 years old.

January 20, 2018

Why Is It So Hard To Practice Patience?

It doesn’t happen very often, but every once in a while, I complain directly to God about something that’s bothering me. Last week, my frustration with an ongoing issue finally got to the point that one of my thoughts went up to God in the form of a question: Why can’t you just have an angel appear to me in a dream and tell me what to do? I’m tired of playing these cat and mouse games where I’m always struggling to try to figure out what I should do.

Of course, I immediately felt guilty about addressing God in this manner. Who did I think I was? A prophet? King Solomon? Saint Joseph?

But I get extremely frustrated at times, because while I want to do the right thing, I often feel as though I need specific direction from God. Although I’ve always been good at solving problems, I don’t like it when I have to wait on God to reveal pieces of the puzzle that are needed to solve the problem I’m struggling with.

I’m convinced that one of the primary reasons God operates this way is to teach me the virtues of humility and patience. If He sent an angel to tell me how to solve my problems, I wouldn’t need to learn and practice humility and patience. I would simply wait for instructions from the angel and then take credit for being a special child of God.

Most of us fail to realize that in order to really be humble, we must first suffer humiliations. And we must accept whatever humiliations that come our way with love and gratitude. While humility is the most important of all virtues, the virtue of patience has to be among the top five virtues. Why? Because it’s so difficult to put into practice.

Last week, I wrote about the three grades of patience, which are, to bear difficulties without interior complaint, to use hardships to make progress in virtue, and to desire the cross and afflictions out of love for God and accept them with spiritual joy. It would be impossible to put the three grades of patience into practice if we were to try to do it without God’s assistance.

January 13, 2018

The Difficulties That Arise After Years of Marriage

Last week, I wrote about a couple who was having financial problems because of the husband’s inability to work. Here’s what I wrote at the end of the article:
I’ve been a lawyer for more than 35 years. I’ve dealt with hundreds of couples who, after years of marriage, are facing an unexpected crisis. You would think that after being married for 20 or more years, married couples would be more patient and forgiving of each other than they were when they were newly married. But that’s usually not the case. The fact that they’ve spent years together seems to somehow inhibit their ability to practice real patience and forgiveness toward each other.

Instead of being patient and forgiving, they’re extremely frustrated and angry with each other. Why?

When couples get married, there’s always great hope for the future. With that hope comes the expectation that they will be able to work out all their problems. There is also an expectation that they will someday be able to overcome whatever bad habits or deficiencies they have.

Unfortunately, as each year passes, nothing really changes. Husbands and wives stop making the effort that is required to please each other. It’s almost as if they’ve been through too much together. They’re worn out and exhausted. They’ve run out of patience.

I’ve written before about a saying that is common in the business world: “Familiarity breeds contempt.” This saying stands for the proposition that the more familiar you are with a person, the more contemptible that person becomes.

Over time, as people in the business world become more familiar with each other, their defects and weaknesses become more evident. They are exposed to and become tired of each other’s excuses, bad habits, broken promises, lack of respect, mood swings, angry outbursts, and lack of appreciation. Before long, their patience wears thin, and the slightest infraction causes them to treat each other with contempt.

January 6, 2018

Something Married Couples Face After Years of Marriage

Last week, I had an appointment with a man — I’ll call him Jim — who hired me eight months ago to represent him on a personal injury case. As usual, Jim brought his wife with him to the appointment. I’ve met with Jim and his wife on four occasions over the past eight months. Jim was injured when a large truck disregarded a stop sign and collided with his vehicle in the middle of an intersection. Because of his injuries, Jim has not been able to return to work. He’s been without an income for eight months.

Jim and his wife are in their late 30s. He’s a skilled tradesman who has been a member of a trade union for more than 20 years. Jim has never had any problem finding work, primarily because he is willing to travel to other states to work, when necessary. Since the accident, Jim’s financial situation has become progressively worse. He has had to borrow money to support his wife and children, and he also recently cashed in part of his retirement, so he could keep up with his bills.

Prior to the accident, Jim’s wife did not work outside the home. A few months after the accident, she felt that she had no other choice but to get a job, so she applied for and secured a job at a local business.

Each of the times I’ve met with Jim, he’s been upbeat and happy. He’s an intelligent, good-natured person who likes to talk and tell stories. His wife has come to all his appointments and has always been courteous and friendly — until last week.

Last week, when I entered the conference room to meet with them, Jim was the same as he’s always been, but his wife was quiet and had an angry look on her face. Her demeanor indicated to me that she and Jim either argued on the way to my office, or she was fed up with his situation.

I talked to Jim about his condition and he indicated to me that he was still receiving physical therapy three times a week. He said that he probably wasn’t going to be able to return to work for at least another 10 to 12 months. He told me that before the accident, he worked at the same trade for 20 years.

December 16, 2017

Hollywood Predators and Our Consent-Based Culture

I recently counted the sexual predators who have been exposed over the past three months who are associated with the mainstream media and the movie and television industries. All of them are men. The number of men who have been outed over the past three months exceeds three dozen.

One of the men who was exposed by the woman he abused is Matthew Weiner, the creator of the award-winning television series, Mad Men. The show premiered in 2007 and ended in 2015, after seven seasons and 92 episodes. During that time, the show won numerous awards, including Golden Globes and Emmys, for its “historical authenticity” and “visual style.”

Mad Men was known as a “period show,” and was based in the early 1960s. The show was about a group of Madison Avenue advertising men. Even though the story line of Mad Men took place in the 1960s, the primary content of the show was centered on adulterous and licentious behavior.

In 2010, I watched one episode of Mad Men and it was obvious to me that like a majority of the modern-day movies and television shows, the men in the show routinely found themselves in situations where they met beautiful young women and then ended up in bed with them the same day they met.

Like the other men who create and produce these types of shows, the creator of Mad Men produced shows that were centered on his own fantasies. He simply had actors play out those fantasies on television.

With the outing of the more than three dozen men in media, television, and the movies, it should be no surprise to anyone that they were simply living out the fantasies that that wrote about — fantasies that always showed men engaging in one-night stands with beautiful young women whom they had only known for a matter of hours.

But the men who got caught went too far. They became animals who used power, intimidation, and force to get their way with women. They should all be charged with crimes and, if convicted, they should be put in prison.

November 4, 2017

Killers, Terrorists, and Criminally Abusive Men

If you pay any attention to the national news, you know about the mass murder of 59 people last month by a lone gunman in Las Vegas. You also know about the terrorist in New York who killed eight people by driving a rented truck into a crowded bike path. In addition to the killings, within the past month, there has been a wave of news stories about several well-known Hollywood male executives and celebrities who have been accused of routinely abusing women and getting away with it.

There’s something that the killers and the abusive men have in common. Do you know what it is?

Prior to their criminal acts, these men’s hearts turned cold and black. Over time, the evil values that they embraced became embedded within their hearts.

With each of the incidents that were referenced above, the mainstream media followed the same path that they always follow. They spent an inordinate amount of time trying to figure out what was going on in the minds of the men who had committed the crimes. As usual, they couldn’t figure out why the men had behaved the way they did.

While the media always consults with so-called experts to figure out what’s going on in the minds of the criminals, they should instead be focusing on what’s going on in the hearts of the criminals.

Behavioral experts have been trying to explain and understand human behavior for centuries. The oldest model for understanding human behavior dates back to at least the time of the Greeks and maybe even to the time of the Egyptians.

Back then, experts focused on three elements of human behavior. The first element of behavior was known as “cognitive,” which is related to the conscious, intellectual activity of the brain (thinking, reasoning, and remembering).

The second element of behavior was known as “affective,” which is related to the emotional and feeling attributes that each of us have.

March 25, 2017

So Unfair Dad

After I published my recent article about how various local politicians, businesspeople, and former Caterpillar employees behaved after the announcement that Caterpillar was moving its headquarters to Chicago, I received an email from a man who is employed by Caterpillar in an upper-management position. For the purpose of this article, I’m going to call him “James.”

James is in his 50s, and I’ve known him for more than 20 years. He began working for Caterpillar after he graduated from college. James has always been a loyal and dedicated employee of Caterpillar. He is very knowledgeable about the company. Here’s part of what he wrote in his email:

I agreed with all your points regarding personal reactions to the Caterpillar announcement to move its headquarters out of Peoria. I’d like to offer you a macroeconomic perspective, because corporations also have a responsibility to the communities wherein they reside, especially Caterpillar.

The entire central Illinois region is what it is today because of Caterpillar: good, bad and ugly. Caterpillar’s 92-year legacy in this region has created the community, and Caterpillar’s untimely departure will leave a hole that cannot be repaired. It’s not entirely wrong for people to be upset about that. I’ll give you one example that shows Caterpillar’s impact over this past century.


[W]e have a 92-year history of being the most technologically isolationist company on the planet. For the first 70 years it was a perfect strategy. Today, it would seem like lunacy, but consider what Caterpillar did in the post-WWII period. Caterpillar petitioned the local, state and federal governments not to build the interstate highway system through Peoria. Instead, a little watering hole called Bloomington became a thriving community that pretty much has never seen a real recession since then.

August 20, 2016

A Cyberbully Retaliates Against Me

bad-reviewLast week, I received an email from Google that included the following notification concerning one of my law firm websites: “You just got a 1-star review.” Underneath the notification was a place for me to click to read the review. I immediately clicked on the link and found the review. The only thing on the review page was a company logo with one star that was an orange color.

The logo included the name of a company. I googled the company name, but because the name was similar to several other local and national companies, I was unable to find a link to the company that was represented by the logo. I navigated to the “Images” page of Google and again searched for the name of the company. A page of images appeared. I looked for and found the same logo that was next to the 1-star review.

If you’re familiar with the Google Images page, when you click on an image, the area around the image expands, and to the right of the image there is a link that will take you to where the image originated. I clicked on the link and was taken to the Google+ page for the company.

I located the contact information for the company, and there was a phone number listed. I called the number and a man answered the phone. I asked whom I was speaking to, and he told me his name. For the purpose of this email, I’m going to call him “Burt.”

I didn’t recognize Burt’s name. I told him who I was and asked him if he had posted a negative review on Google. In a defensive tone of voice, he said, “Yes, I did.” When I asked him why he posted the review, he said that the reason was because I was not willing to help him with his case. I still didn’t know who he was, so I asked, “Have I ever met with you?”

He answered yes and told me he had met with me about an accident he had been involved in. He said that I was not willing to assist him with his case and had referred him to another lawyer. He said he called the other lawyer, but the lawyer wasn’t returning his calls, so he gave negative reviews to both of us. His recitation of what happened jogged my memory, and I remembered who Burt was. He had previously called my office, and my client services manager scheduled him for an appointment to meet with me.

May 7, 2016

Responding to a Raging Critic

criticLast week I received a letter from a man who felt compelled to put me in my place. One of his comments pertained to my recent article, A Gunfighter Rides Into Peoria. In that article, I described what happened during a recent trial that I was involved in. Here’s what the man said about my article:

[Y]ou disparaged the character of a fellow attorney by stating that he didn’t care about his client and only cared about money … only the wonderful lawyer Mr. Williams cares about his clients. And then you go on to write about humility! Again, what would Jesus say? “Woe to you lawyers also! For you load people with burdens hard to bear, and you yourselves do not touch the burdens with one of your fingers.” (Luke 11:46)

The man obviously misread what I had written. It was not a fellow attorney that I said did not care about his client. It was a neurosurgeon from Rockford, Illinois, who was hired as an “expert witness” to testify against my client. The neurosurgeon was the person who I claimed did not care about my client and only cared about the money he was being paid to testify.

Later in his letter, the man wrote about some “unscrupulous lawyers” who mistreated him and his family members. He then implied that I needed to work on my “narcissism” and closed his letter by stating, “Thank you and I look forward to hearing from you.”

I’m not sure why he’s looking forward to hearing from me, considering the fact that he sent a letter that was dripping with sarcasm and contempt toward me.

I periodically receive letters from people who are upset about something I’ve written. The people who write the letters usually fall into one of the following three categories:

  1. Irritation. There are occasions when a person is irritated about something I’ve written and wants to either correct me or give me an opinion as to why I was wrong about what I wrote. Usually the person is courteous and respectful in the way he or she communicates with me.
  2. Anger. When a person is angry with me about something I’ve written, the person is usually more aggressive in the way he or she criticizes me. The person usually expresses an opinion as to why I’m wrong and then proceeds to tell me what I should have written.
  3. Rage. When a person is outraged by something I’ve written, in addition to aggressively stating why I was wrong about what I wrote, the person launches into a personal attack against me by questioning my motives and attacking my character.

The definition of “rage” is “a strong feeling of anger that is difficult to control” or “a sudden expression of violent anger.” In my opinion, the man who sent the letter to me that I quoted from above was in a state of rage when he wrote the letter.

April 16, 2016

A Decision Not To Be A Victim

victim-mentalityTwo weeks ago, I wrote about some of the abusive teachers that I had at the Catholic grade school that I attended during the 1960s. Last week, I wrote about how the behavior of those teachers wasn’t much different than the behavior of other teachers in the 1960s. I wrote that at that time, there were some parents and teachers who believed that abusing and humiliating boys was a necessary part of transforming them into real men.

I also wrote that in today’s society, too many of our teachers and parents are encouraging their boys to get more in touch with their feelings and to be more sensitive to the feelings of others, instead of channeling their ambition and aggression toward developing and practicing greater initiative, self-reliance, competitiveness, and hard work.

These same parents and teachers also allow their boys to get away with blaming others for their problems and deficiencies, which turns them into victims who never learn how to take responsibility for their own actions and bad behavior.

Over the years, I’ve come to believe that what my early teachers did to me helped me later in life in making decisions that were of significant benefit to me and my family.

Early in my legal career, a devout Catholic mentor repeatedly told me that anytime something bad happened to me, I should adopt an attitude that what occurred was the best thing that could have happened to me. At first I argued with him about embracing this particular belief, but he adamantly defended his position. Every time I gave him reasons why he was wrong, he came up with positive things that could arise in the future as a result of my bad experience.

I eventually came around to my mentor’s point of view and I applied his theory to my experience with my grade school teachers. As a result, I began looking for reasons why what I experienced was “the best thing that could have happened to me.”

April 9, 2016

Changing Beliefs About Hair Color

Miss ClairolThere was an article in Adweek magazine a few years ago that discussed how women weren’t open to using hair-color products when they were first introduced in the 1950s. In 1956, Clairol introduced “Miss Clairol,” a “hair color bath” for women that provided a one-step product for natural-looking results.

Clairol had a difficult time selling its new product to the public because there was a social stigma among women against dyeing their hair. At that time, it was common knowledge that the only women who dyed their hair were stage actresses and women who had questionable morals.

In order to sell American women on its new hair-color product, Clairol hired Shirley Polykoff, the only female advertising expert employed at the well-known New York advertising agency Foote, Cone & Belding. Polykoff determined that the only way to persuade women to buy the product was to convince them that Miss Clairol was so natural looking that nobody would ever guess that they had colored their hair.

Polykoff came up with the tagline “Does she … or doesn’t she?” Below the tagline was the statement “Hair color so natural, only her hairdresser knows for sure!” Six years after Polykoff took over the account, sales for Miss Clairol reached $200 million.

A couple of weeks ago, I stopped at a local grocery store to pick up a few items. The color of the young woman’s hair at the checkout counter was a solid, unflattering green color. A few days later, I was waited on at one of the local banks by a woman who had hair that was about 14 inches in length. The first six inches of her hair were a bleach-blond color, and the remaining eight inches were a dark brown color. She looked like a woman you would see in one of the Star Trek movies.

Sixty years ago women did everything they could to hide the fact that they colored their hair. Today, women frequently color their hair so they can stand out and get attention and recognition. The same applies to the proliferation of tattoos, and nose rings and various other forms of “jewelry” that are poked into and connected to people’s tongues, noses, ears, and other parts of their faces.

April 2, 2016

The Departure of a Hero

HeroOn a Thursday evening during the summer of 1971, my dad and I went to Limestone Community High School in Bartonville, Illinois, to register me for the upcoming school year. I had graduated from St. Mark’s Catholic School in May, which was the end of what I considered an eight-year prison term.

I got off to a bad start at St. Mark’s. My first-grade teacher was Sister Lorken, a cruel and unforgiving religious sister who had no business teaching children. Because I had trouble learning how to read, Sister Lorken regularly singled me out for verbal abuse in front of my classmates. She also periodically physically abused me by grabbing my shoulders and shaking me while she yelled at me. At the end of the school year, Sister Lorken recommended to my parents that I be held back. My parents refused her request and insisted that I be allowed to advance to the second grade.

My second grade teacher was Sister Eduarda, who was also very abusive. Unlike today, the mindset of some of the teachers during the 1960s was that the only way to handle young boys who were not performing up to expectations was to ridicule them and, when necessary, use corporal punishment to force them to conform.

During my seventh and eighth grade years, classes were split up between two seventh grade teachers and two eighth grade teachers, one of whom was Sister Theogene. She was as bad as Sister Lorken and Sister Eduarda.

There was one memorable occasion that occurred during the first month of seventh grade. One day while I was walking in the hallway on my way to class, Sister Theogene attacked me from behind and started hitting me on the back of my head with an open hand. As she was hitting me, she yelled at me because my shirt was untucked in back. I was not aware that the back of my shirt had become untucked while I had been sitting in my previous class.

July 10, 2015

Lessons From An Alcoholic Lawyer

Alcoholic FamilyOne of the conditions of maintaining my law license is that every other year I am required to report to the state of Illinois that I have completed at least 30 hours of continuing legal education. One option that’s available is to purchase and listen to audio recordings of presentations that have been made by attorneys at legal conferences. I recently purchased a package of 30 hours of audio recordings that were assembled from several different presentations.

One presentation that was included in the package was titled “Attorneys and Alcoholism.” The lawyer who gave the presentation is the executive director of Lawyers Concerned for Lawyers of Pennsylvania, Inc. The organization was established in 1988 and operates as a confidential helpline service for Pennsylvania lawyers, judges, and law students who are in distress because of substance abuse or mental health disorders.

The lawyer who gave the presentation — Kenneth J. Hagreen — is a former alcoholic who has been assisting other lawyers with alcoholism and addiction problems for more than 35 years.

In his presentation, Hagreen explained what most of us already know: that some people have a genetic predisposition toward alcoholism or drugs that causes them to react differently than people who do not have the predisposition.

He also talked about how our life experiences provide the foundation for how our minds develop. He explained that the ability to communicate effectively, make good judgments, control our emotions, solve problems, and set goals depends on the type of environment we grew up in.

Hagreen outlined the three different types of environments that children can be exposed to while they’re growing up:

  1. Safe and Nurturing Environment – Children who are raised in a safe and nurturing environment generally develop better communication and coping skills. As they are growing up, they are exposed to stability and order, and their parents treat them as worthy individuals. As problems and issues arise, they become accustomed to discussing the problems with their parents and coming up with reasonable solutions. As a result, these children develop a strong sense of well-being and confidence. When they have their first experience with alcohol or drugs, they are usually more resistant to the impact and the emotional high that alcohol and drugs would otherwise have on them.
  2. Unstable and Dysfunctional Environment – Children who are raised in an unstable and dysfunctional environment don’t learn how to communicate effectively, and they fail to learn how to adequately cope with disappointment, frustration, and negative feelings. They generally feel that it’s safer to stay out of sight and remain quiet rather than try to communicate or work through a disagreement they have with someone. For them, life can be a constant struggle. Ultimately these children end up being more withdrawn and insecure. They feel as though they are not in control of their lives. They may also feel a sense of hopelessness. They are constantly on the lookout for someone who will provide them with direction, leadership, and approval.
  3. Abusive Environment – The last category of children are those who have been subjected to mental, emotional, physical, or sexual abuse. These children have been severely traumatized. They live in fear and constantly have a heightened sense of alertness. They perceive typical life situations as threatening, when in fact they’re not. This chronic state of fearfulness, coupled with a lack of communication and coping skills, sets the stage for them to misperceive events. They are more likely to overreact to stressful situations with angry outbursts and, at times, violence. They are gravely insecure and feel as though they are completely powerless.

When the second and third groups of children experiment with alcohol or drugs, they are at a higher level of risk to develop problems. The alcohol and drugs create a sense of well-being and completeness that they can immediately latch onto. With continued use, they begin to believe that alcohol and drugs are an appropriate and acceptable way to deal with their problems and difficulties.