Monday, July 23, 2012

Ithaca Cortland Lawyer Shares His Favorite Phrases: "I Don't Know" and "It Depends"

I have been an attorney now for 14 years. One of the first things I learned in law school still reverberates in my head. People will forever have questions but unfortunately we may not always have a "good" answer. Legal Questions were asked in class, and the lawyer was taught to respond:

"It depends."

This answer may not satisfy anyone but it is the truth. Certain legal things (issues) depend on whether or not the facts of a given situation look black, white, or a shade of grey. Not everything is clear cut or definite, this is especially true in the practice of law.

We must often weigh, balance, assess, analyze, and look at things from different view points.

This is what I love about lay people practicing law. I am being facetious now but without CONTEXT legal decisions, laws, statutes, rights, and past precedents (law applied to the facts of a past case) are without perspective and understanding. This is the real danger with people looking up stuff on the internet. It is a good start but you need a guide, a counselor, an interpreter to place things in their place and time.

Placing Things in Your Head

I used to tell my young kids I couldn't explain certain things to them (usually sexual) because they did not have a shelf in their brains to place it upon. It had no place to go accept to fall out their mouths. That is why I give my clients a grand overview of the legal process so they have a timeline and a place to put legal events.


Yes, we need lawyers, just as we need doctors, just as we need plumbers. Professionals know what to do, and more impotantly what not to do in any given situation.

I have watched You Tube videos on fixing my toilet. It seemed simple enough, twist a few wrenches, and voila everything fixed. So off to Loew's I went . . .

DIY (Do It Yourself)

The truth was that the hands on "know how" of when that old nut and bolt wouldn't move, and my applying force to something that required finesse ended with me stripping the screw. My wife loves to remind me, hey you can't do everything great! Call in the expert. yeah, we need experts because without them we are lost. The job may often cost alot more than a stripped bolt or screw.

Which brings me to my second favorite phrase. I learned this in Chiropractic college:

"I don't Know"

Yeah, guess what, I don't know everything. I never have, and I never will know it all. I am continually learning, and the world and the law keep changing. That is the value of keeping up and staying current. Seminars, books, and conferences are not for credit hours to renew my licenses. They are picked for interest, and I am excited to attend them. I talk a lot, this can be good and bad, trust me, but I also listen to people. I try to learn something new everyday. Everyone is my teacher. I am forever a student of life and of learning.

I tell people if I don't know BUT I will find out. Sometimes New York law may state one thing BUT a judge or a District Attorney in a certain location interprets or applies something differently. This is not wrong or illegal just an opinion of how something should be. I must deal and work with these people as will my clients. Do I agree with everything that I see and hear? NO, but I must respect it and work with it.

This is where real world experience and not that which comes from a book really pays off. You can never teach experience, you have to live it. Just as you can't teach or explain being a parent, husband, or son, it is something to be lived and most of all felt.

Lawrence (Larry) Newman, D.C., J.D.
Doctor of Chiropractic
Attorney and Counselor at Law
504 North Aurora Street
Ithaca, NY 14850

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