Letter No. 3 -- True Friends

This post continues my attempt to apply ancient wisdom to the present day experience of people going through a divorce in Minnesota.

The wisdom comes from Seneca (an old Roman dude) who wrote a series of letters to his friend, Lucilius, about the meaning of life. Whether the letters were actually sent, or just compiled as a book, doesn't matter to me because I've found his advice as sound today as when he wrote it circa 65 A.D.

All the letters can be downloaded (for free) courtesy of Tim Ferriss. Click (here) for his website. He's got a bunch of other amazing stuff too.

Today's Letter is No. 3. It's titled On True and False Friendship.

In it, Seneca writes Lucilius saying that he's received Lucilius's letter. The one brought by a "friend." Seneca says he's confused by how Lucilius uses the word because in the same letter Lucilius also urges him not to share any private details with the man.

Seneca asks Lucilius how someone can simultaneously be both a "friend" and someone you don't trust "as you trust yourself."

Seneca wonders if Lucilius has the idea of friendship backwards. Instead of calling a person a friend first and then later judging them unworthy, the better way is to judge a person worthy first, then to share "all your heart and soul" with them.

Sharing at least all your worries and reflections. "Regard him as loyal, and you will make him loyal."

How does Seneca's advice apply to a Minnesota divorce?

If you substitute the word "attorney" for "friend," you've hit upon a common problem in divorce cases.

People choose lawyers too fast.

They hand over retainer payments and share intimate details of their lives without first judging the lawyer they've made their "friend." They attach significance to phony awards and popularity contests. They are swayed by the awe of a lawyer's website or whether they have an office in a skyscraper.

But not enough people choose lawyers the way Seneca urges Lucilius to judge "friends." Is this lawyer worthy of my trust? Is this lawyer a person to whom I want to confide? Is this lawyer the kind of person I want representing me?

Believe it or not, clients run divorce cases. Lawyers work for people, not the other way around. People buy services. They pay bills.

I think everyone would be better off if more people: "Ponder[ed] for a long time whether [they] shall admit a given person to [be their lawyer]; but when [they] have decided to admit him, welcome him with all [their] heart and soul. Speak as boldly with him as with [themselves.]"

By far, the worst moments of my legal career involve a client betrayal. A person chooses me, then, for reasons I don't understand, betrays me. They tell a spouse or friend or even the other lawyer I'm no good.

Lawyers do the same kind of backstabbing to clients. Not all, of course. But some. My jaw dropped when I watched a lawyer tell a judge (back in chambers) that her client was crazy.

We shouldn't treat each other this way.

What would happen if you had unwavering faith in your lawyer? What would be like to know that your lawyer had unwavering faith in you?

That's a world I'd like to see.

Stay strong,

Rob