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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Regardless of what you think of President Trump, there’s one thing that he did this year that you probably agree with. It has to do with Christmas. During his campaign for president, Trump promised that he would bring back the word “Christmas” to the Christmas season. He complained about how he no longer sees the word anywhere in the stores during the Christmas season. He said that he was tired of seeing “Happy Holidays” and “Seasons Greetings” instead of “Merry Christmas.”
Last month, when the official White House Christmas card was released, it included the old familiar greeting that we all grew up with: “Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.” Underneath the greeting were the handwritten signatures of President Trump, his wife Melania, and their son Barron.
During the eight years that President Obama was in office, every one of the official White House Christmas cards failed to mention Christmas. In place of the words “Merry Christmas” was “Seasons Greetings.”
Last year, in an effort to keep from offending people who were not Christians, Starbucks removed all the Christmas symbols from its traditional Christmas season coffee cups. The removal of the Christmas symbols offended Christians and other people who thought that the company was engaged in a ridiculous effort to prove that it was sensitive to the desires and beliefs of a minority of its customers.
By attempting to avoid offending non-Christians, Starbucks damaged its reputation with Christians and other people who cherish traditions that have existed for hundreds of years.
That’s what happens when people and companies attempt to change traditional ways of doing things so that certain segments of society are not offended. The effort itself ends up offending far more people than those who would be offended if the traditions were continued.
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.
Last week, I ran into an old client at the Peoria County Courthouse. For the purpose of this article, I’m going to call him Noah. I represented Noah more than 20 years ago for some serious alcohol-related traffic ticket violations. During the last case that I assisted him with, I told him that it was obvious to everyone who knew him that he had a problem with alcohol. He became angry with me and refused to admit that he had an alcohol problem. After that, he continued to get into trouble with the law, but stopped coming to me for assistance.
Noah was in his 20s when he first came to me for legal assistance. He had graduated from a Catholic grade school and high school. Shortly after graduating from high school, he moved in with his Catholic girlfriend. They lived together for several years. She broke up with him after she finally came to the conclusion that he was never going to make a commitment to her.
I hadn’t seen Noah since the day I told him that he needed to get help for his alcohol problem. But then, within a period of six months, I saw him on three different occasions — two times at the courthouse and one time at a wedding that I attended.
When I saw Noah last week, I realized that I was running into him for a reason. I had originally planned on going to the courthouse the day before to file some documents, but I got tied up and ended up going the next day. That’s when I saw Noah.
When he saw me walk into the office where court documents are filed, Noah came over to me and asked if he could talk to me for a few minutes. I said yes and met with him in the hallway after I was done filing my documents. He looked ragged and worn out, and he appeared to be much older than his age.
Noah began the conversation by describing a criminal case that was pending against him. While proclaiming his innocence, he told me that he was being railroaded. After I listened for a while, I interrupted him and asked, “Is your mom still living?” He was taken aback by my question, but answered that she had died when he was in high school.
I recently watched a video of a presentation that was made by a businessman who owns several successful companies. His companies generate more than $100 million per year in gross revenue. One of the topics that he touched upon was the difficulty that a business owner has in trying to manage and balance his or her business life with their personal life.
He talked about how business owners sometimes shut down and isolate themselves from family and friends when they become overwhelmed. He said that when that happens, a business owner feels bad because an important part of his or her support network — spouse and family — are unable to offer the support and encouragement that is needed to be happy and fulfilled.
He emphasized the importance of establishing a plan and setting aside the time and energy that is necessary to continue to focus on and nurture relationships while continuing to dedicate an appropriate amount of time and effort to operate the business. He then introduced a woman who he identified as a relationship expert and asked her to speak about the importance of people balancing their relationships with their business lives.
When the woman began speaking, she explained that she is a “Love Coach” who has had extensive experience working with couples. As she spoke, I got the impression that she is not particularly religious. She talked about how “the universe” acts in certain ways to align us with individuals who will help us to successfully get through life.
There are a lot of very good life and business coaches who talk in terms of what the universe can do for us, rather than give credit to God for what He does for us. Over the years, I’ve heard several professional coaches say, “Call it whatever you want — the universe, Buddha, Allah, or God — it doesn’t really matter, but there is a certain kind of energy that exists that is available to help you to successfully navigate through life.”
I subscribe to a handful of monthly marketing newsletters. One of the newsletters is written by Dan Kennedy, a business consultant and marketing expert who has more than 40 years of experience helping business owners grow their businesses.
Ever since the advent of Facebook, Kennedy has repeatedly warned his subscribers not to trust Facebook. He insists that businesses that advertise on Facebook must have a process in place that immediately transfers all new customer data from the Facebook platform to a website or database that is owned by the business.
Kennedy has never wavered in his warnings about Facebook. His argument is that Facebook can, at any time, decide that a business is not complying with its guidelines, in which case it can, without notice, immediately shut down the page of any person or business.
I thought about Kennedy’s warnings last week when I read a Catholic News Agency (CNA) article that reported that within a 24-hour period, Facebook had removed more than two dozen “conservative” Catholic pages from its website.
One of the pages belonged to an American Catholic priest, Fr. Francis J. Hoffman, who is commonly known as “Fr. Rocky.” Hoffman is the Executive Director of Relevant Radio. At the time that his Facebook page was removed, he had more than 3.5 million followers.
Another popular page that was removed was known as “Catholic and Proud.” The page had more than six million followers, and belonged to Kenneth Alimba of Nigeria. Alimba told CNA that his page had been taken down by Facebook without any warning or explanation.
Alimba had another page, “Holy Mary Mother of God,” that had more than 200,000 followers, that was also removed by Facebook. He told CNA that he had spent more than five years working on his Facebook pages and that the loss of the pages was “extremely heartbreaking” and “horrible.”
During the fall semester of my senior year in high school (1974), a group of girls from my class got together and organized several dances. The dances were in the school cafeteria and occurred after the football games. I attended the first dance with a couple of my friends.
The only boys who were dancing were the ones who had girlfriends, and a few stragglers who didn’t know how to dance, but got out on the dance floor anyway and did stupid things to get attention, like roll around on the floor and bounce around on their bellies like they were dolphins jumping in and out of the water.
The rest of the boys who attended the dance were lined up against the walls of the cafeteria visiting with each other and watching what was occurring on the dance floor. I was one of those boys. Most of the girls who didn’t have boyfriends got up and danced with each other.
About halfway through the evening, I looked at one of my friends and said, “We need to ask some girls to dance and get out on the dance floor and have some fun.” He replied that he wasn’t ready to dance yet. I responded by saying, “We didn’t come here to stand around and watch everybody else have a good time. Come on, let’s get out there and have some fun.”
He responded by saying, “I don’t know how to dance.” I replied, “I don’t either, but it doesn’t matter. Nobody’s going to be looking at us while we’re dancing. They’re all worried about how they look on the dance floor. All their attention is focused on themselves. So come on. If they can do it, we can do it.”
He refused to cooperate with me, so I walked over to a girl and asked her to dance. She said yes. I danced the rest of the evening, while my friends continued to stand around and watch. After that, I went to several of the other dances and danced while most of my male classmates stood around and watched everyone else have a good time.
Over the Thanksgiving holiday, I ran into a Catholic doctor that I’ve known for more than 20 years. For the purpose of this article, I’m going to call him “Ray.” After we talked for a while, the topic of how young adults aren’t prepared for the real world came up.
Ray told me about a recent experience that he had at a local department store. While he was shopping at the store, he picked up a package of six identical items that were bundled together. When he arrived at the checkout lane, the young woman behind the counter scanned one of the six items. The amount that appeared on the cash register screen was for a single item, rather than all six of the items.
When Ray saw the single-item price on the screen, he calmly told the woman that he didn’t think that the price was correct. He explained to her that the price that was displayed should have been six times what was shown, because there were six items in the package. The woman scanned one of the items again and the same amount appeared on the screen. She then told Ray that the amount that appeared on the screen was the correct amount.
Ray was irritated with the woman and said, “Okay, if that’s the price, I’m going to go get some more packages.” He then walked over to where the items were displayed and grabbed three more packages off the shelf. The woman rang up each of the three additional packages for the single-item price.
When Ray finished telling me about his experience with the woman, I said, “You really do know better than that. Just because the woman didn’t know what she was doing, didn’t give you the right to purchase the packages at the reduced price.” He disagreed with me and said, “No, you’re wrong. Since she insisted that the price was correct, I had the right to buy as many packages as I wanted at that price.” I disagreed with him and said, “When you purchased those items, you knew that she didn’t have the authority to reduce the price of the package to the single-item price. There’s a word for what you did. It’s called theft.”
I had planned on refraining from writing anything about Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton because I felt that there was really nothing I could add to what’s already available on hundreds of websites. But I ran across an article last week that revealed some information that I haven’t seen anywhere else, and I figured you probably haven’t seen it either.
The article I’m referring to was written by Rod Martin and was posted on his website at RodMartin.org. On his website, Martin is described as “a technology entrepreneur, futurist, hedge fund manager, thought leader, and activist from Destin, Florida.” He’s also a devout Christian.
In his article, Martin discussed his ongoing skepticism of Trump. He expressed some of the same doubts that most of us have when it comes to Trump. Those doubts included Trump’s lack of moral character and his previous positions concerning abortion and other moral issues that are important to Christians.
Despite his skepticism, Martin admitted that his views of Trump changed somewhat after he attended a recent evangelical conference that Trump participated in. Martin said that he attended the largest meeting at the conference, in which almost 1,000 people participated. Trump was at the meeting and spoke about several issues that were important to evangelical Christians.
According to Martin, Trump talked about the importance of selecting and appointing judges who will adhere to the U.S. Constitution and the principles upon which our nation was built. Trump also spent a lot of time talking about the Johnson Amendment, which is something most people and most candidates don’t know anything about.
Trump knew what he was doing, because the Johnson Amendment is extremely important to devout evangelicals. The Johnson Amendment (named after then-Senator Lyndon B. Johnson) was passed by Congress in 1954. It added a provision to the U.S. tax code that prohibits tax-exempt organizations from endorsing or opposing political candidates.
Last 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:
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.