ABA Journal


Question of the Week

What do you ask or tell yourself to clear your mind and get a fresh perspective to solve a problem?

Sep 4, 2013, 03:37 pm CDT


Ale or whiskey?

By mike on 2013 09 05, 3:12 pm CDT

Whenever I am perplexed, I think about the various options and then sleep on them. Usually by the next day, I know what to do and am charged up to do it.
However, if something bothers me, then oftentimes the reason is I feel a conflict. Something is not right and then I go and ask someone well versed in the rules of ethics as to how the matter should be handled.
I was conflicted by what legal ethics required in the Illinois Alton Logan case. I do not know if I could have held my client's secret murder confession for 26 years knowing that an innocent person was serving time for my client's crime.

By Pacific on 2013 09 05, 7:14 pm CDT

What would the solution be if I took myself and my ego out of this situation? Trying to see any dilemma or problem as an objective third person, even if it takes some imagination, helps get emotions and pride in check.

By Megan D on 2013 09 06, 8:54 am CDT

Say and tell myself nothing, go for a walk, long walk, by the river , through the woods, out of the way.

By John on 2013 09 06, 11:26 am CDT

I go to to get a better perspective on life and remember all the little things that I am thankful for.

By A. Lee on 2013 09 06, 4:22 pm CDT

@3 and @4 make sense, and @1 is worth a smile, but the question as posed poses a logical conundrum. "What do you ask or tell yourself to clear your mind and get a fresh perspective to solve a problem?" I'm not actually trying to be facetious, but clearing the mind through putting something in your mind by telling yourself or asking yourself something is like catching your breath by running a marathon, or taking a break by doing some work.

I meditate, concentration meditation, a half hour every single morning, "religiously." And so I'm used to a non-standard method for clearing my mind. Take the best example I've got, my preparation for my recent Oral Argument before the WSBA Disciplinary Board.

The stakes were high. The WSBA was asking for a six month suspension. I was motivated to give myself the best representation I could. But the whole thing was a bit stressful, as you might imagine. How to "empty my mind" of all that stress in a productive way was a real issue. Well, I love to edit, and, as a means of preparing for this Oral Argument, I edited my "bullet points" over, and over and over again, for several days. This worked really well and relaxed me, at least up until the last few minutes before the hearing. Five minutes before the Disciplinary Board was ready, my energy level was so high that I could no longer read the words on the paper before me, Literally. Could. Not. Read. The. Words. (Well, at least I could no longer gain any sense of meaning from them. Whatever.) But still I was feeling okay, so I closed my eyes (it was an odd situation, what with 11 Board members sitting in a horseshoe before me, but with not one of them looking at me before the hearing started), and, eyes closed, I started to meditate.

It was GOOD meditation. Yummy. Delish. Best I'd had in days if not weeks. (If I didn't enjoy meditating, there's no way I could get myself to do it. Instead I'd read good books, or drive out and about in nature).

But what was the surprise result? They Board tells me they're ready, and I'm feeling so good, so relaxed, that I decide to forego my notes. Just to talk, to improvise. They told me at Seattle University School of Law that watching people read notes, or speak from memorization was just not that impressive, (unless you're an Obama, or a Bill Clinton) and that, if you want to connect with the audience, you need to improvise. Well, I felt like I really needed to connect with that audience (of people who wouldn't look at me), so, possessed by yet another brilliant idea (I failed my first Bar Exam because of a brilliant idea, so brilliant ideas and me have a history), I decided to forget the notes, and improvise.

I didn't quite succeed. Yes, it's true, I've never enjoyed Oral Argument as much as I did that morning, and yes, they decided not to suspend me for six months, or three months, or one month. But they still decided to reprimand me, a decision which I've appealed (it's a discretionary appeal) to the Washington State Supreme Court. If the Justices pick it up, and even if they don't, I'll continue to prepare my case the same way. For me it is now a tried and true method.

I might not be that special as an attorney, but I'd like to think that I know a good case when I see one. And it's actually exciting stuff representing yourself, protecting your own legal reputation.

I finally think I'm beginning to understand the meaning of the "litigator's high." It's addictive.

By Tom Youngjohn on 2013 09 07, 12:32 am CDT

Nothing. I just puzzle over it while I am mowing the lawn.

By B. McLeod on 2013 09 07, 6:11 pm CDT

Use creative problem solving techniques. Then I brainstorm. Then I distract myself by doing a totally different activity. Usually that is when the answer presents itself- usually in the midst of a movie, or grocery shopping, or a long, long drive.

By dscrivener on 2013 09 13, 4:36 pm CDT

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