Longer than law school!
By David Boulding, who received The Haven’s Diploma in Counselling on August 28.
Interning for me took longer than law school, was more expensive, and most assuredly was more useful than law school. The practical aspects of interning have improved my lawyering. The communication model, and not being so very attached to right/wrong, has been a challenge for me. You do not generally hire a lawyer unless you want him to hurt someone else; or at least neutralize someone.
The practical benefits of interning for a lawyer are real. There is a quiet proof of this assertion. After some interning I could settle all my cases. Some weeks would pass and eventually it was back to business as usual with taking stuff to the trial court. The more I interned, the stretches of agreement were longer. Thinking I could save the world, I started handing out the postcard-size colour pictures of the communication model and found that no one used it immediately. Shattered. I kept handing them out to clients. It took some years before I could see results. Most of the results were in how I approached other lawyers, cops, witnesses and clients. All the cards I handed out were really for me … to remember to use the model.
My crowning moment was in Saskatoon last year when I spoke to a crowd of 5 or 6 hundred folks. I was slated to talk about a difficult topic: fetal alcohol and the law. So I began … “Now gently close your eyes … open your mouth as if biting an apple … breathe in and now out.”
Did that for three minutes and I had their undivided attention for 90 minutes. In Thunder Bay on Tuesday I did it again. This time it was at 2:30 in a 7-hour teaching session that ended at 4:30. Both times I said, “This is the best legal advice you are ever gonna get!”
Perhaps the two biggest practical lessons or bits I have learned to do are first, stopping … just stopping and using the pause for me to breathe and for the other person to experience that I am listening. The second gift is eye contact. In the words of a friend … “Soft eyes … not the laser eyes of a lawyer.”
These techniques with the communication model I have practised over and over again as an intern. They are now a reflexive part of my life. I teach a course on interviewing based entirely on what I learned from David Raithby. I credit him every chance I get, because I appreciate his help.
Appreciation is missing from this world even more than loving kindness. I work, and I mean work as in lifting heavy things, to express appreciation. When I appreciate folks by saying it aloud, whether it be Viv for Haven breakfast, or some lawyer who is in my face with lots of energy for his position, the results are the same. We can connect. The possibility is there. I do not mean I can bend their world to my view. I have learned that appreciation, clearly expressed from the heart, opens the door to a conversation. In terms of radically changing the world, the gift of interning has been the awareness I can change the world one conversation at a time. We can get closer and feel a connection.
I must say interning was not easy. I made mistakes and was a certified fuck up. And I still am. The hard work of interning tells me this communicating and connecting is not easy for anyone. As an intern I was encouraged to hang in, to keep on listening and to be of service for someone else.
As Ben says: “It is delicious to be with some one.” Yes, I can choose to be right or be with someone.
Often the difference between trite and profound is time. When I take the time to breathe and just be there the experience can be profound. And I have learned to be with myself and others in simple, concrete and easier ways than before interning. And that is profound!