How To Make More Time By Changing Your Perception

Yes, You Can Create Time

Is it possible to create more time? Yes, it is. Before you laugh and close this page, please read on.

What is time?

Time management must begin with considering what, exactly, is this thing called time. You can’t manage something unless you know what it is. Philosophers have been having a ball with the concept of time for a long, well, time. The Greek philosopher Parmenides believed that reality is timeless and never changes. Heraclitus, another Greek philosopher, believed that reality is a constant state of change.

Advantage Heraclitus. Here’s why. A working definition of time should be one that we can all live with. It can’t some theory that we cannot understand; rather, it should be grounded in a reality that we can easily conceive of. The issue, as a practical matter, is more a function of neurology or psychology than of metaphysics. So here is a common sense working definition: time is what we perceive as a constantly changing reality, where we remember what we perceived in the past, actually perceive what’s happening now, and imagine what will happen in the future based on our memories and perceptions.

To make the working definition even easier consider this: time is what we perceive it to be. That’s it; nothing really complicated. The main point is that we perceivetime with our senses and mind, as a linear progression of events. So, is time perception? Yes, at least for this working definition.

Recently a group of scientists, using a particle accelerator, gave the scientific community a scare. They discovered that a subatomic particle called a neutrinocan actually went faster than the speed of light. If this was correct it would mean that Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity encompassed in the formula E=MC² (energy = mass times the speed of light squared) was wrong, and if it’s wrong, all of our formulas describing the physical world for the last 100 years would have to be rewritten. It would have also meant that if the speed of light can be exceeded, then the possibility of going backward in time is possible, really screwing up our knowledge of this thing called time. Fortunately, subsequent experiments showed that the experiment was flawed, and E=MC² still rules the day. The scientific and philosophical debate is fascinating and fun, but it’s not going to help you to manage time.

Let’s stipulate that there are 365 days in a year, 24 hours in a day, and 60 minutes in an hour. That’s it; that’s all we get. Given the hard numbers, can we create more time? To do this you need to make the time longer, especially those minutes and hours. It’s all about perception.

If you’re heating something in the microwave for two minutes, it’s no big deal. The time flies by, and you’re ready to eat or drink what’s in the oven. On the other hand, the last minute of the Super Bowl, for both Giants and Patriots fans seemed to last an eternity. How about listening to a boring speaker for 20 minutes?

Think about these short increments of time and how your perception varies depending on your circumstances. You’re late for an important meeting, and the traffic light turns red. Although it may be red for only a minute, it seems to you like an hour. Perception. When you’re young, the summer seemed to go on forever. When you get older, it seems like you’re planting flowers one day and raking leaves the next. Time seems to go faster the older one gets. But does it really go faster? Remember 365 days a year, 24 hours in a day, and so on? It’s the same amount of time; we just perceive it differently depending on many different circumstances.

Manufacture Time by Changing Your Perception of it

No, you don’t have to buy into a new belief system; you don’t have to change your opinion of anything, including the concept of time; nor do you need to take anything on faith. What you need to do is take actions that will actually give you more time by shifting your perception . Now we’re talking time management. We can’t change the actual amount of time, but we can change how we perceive it. It’s not magic, maybe it is—but it works. You must identify those things that rob you of time—or screw up your perception of it, those things that make time management a never ending chore.

Time-Gnats© and How to Kill Them

Everybody hates gnats. They get in your hair, in your ear, fly up your nose, and the ones that miss you end up in your drink. At least mosquitoes let you know they’re coming. Gnats steal pleasure from you; they take a pleasant summer evening and turn you into a crazy person slapping your own face. Gnats are evil; they must die! Time-gnats must die, too. A time-gnat is a little beast that robs your time, just like regular gnats ruin your party. Let’s talk about time-gnats and learn how to kill them.

What is a time-gnat? A time-gnat is a sudden recollection of a chore that you need to do but have been putting off. It may be a phone call, a letter that needs writing, an e-mail that requires an answer, or any of those little things that we must do in life every day. Time-gnats don’t fly up your nose or into your ear—they enter your head directly. Often they are something unpleasant, something you put off because it’s disagreeable. But they can also be simple, mundane tasks that are easily deferred. Time gnats can make time management impossible.

Time-gnats slow you down by causing you to be vaguely aware of them, while time speeds by, thereby giving you the perception that you are running out of time, that you don’t have enough of it. Time gnats don’t find their way into your appointment book or to-do list because they don’t seem to be that important. That is the problem. That is what turns “something to do” into a time-gnat. So, instead of scheduling a time to handle the chore, you allow the gnat to stay in your head, buzzing around and screwing with your mind. A bunch of time-gnats in your head slows you down, actually steals time from you, and you can’t even identify the little bastards, but they are there, in your head.

Collectively, the gnats give you a sluggish feeling, causing you to say, “I know there’s something I’m supposed to do, but I can’t remember what.” A wonderful dramatic example of a time-gnat is in the movie It’s a Wonderful Life. Remember how every time George Bailey (Jimmy Stewart) walked upstairs in his house, the banister post would come off in his hand? Jimmy Stewart’s facial expression told you that a time-gnat just flew into his head. His face said, “I have to fix this one of these days.”

Okay. Here’s a biodegradable, environmentally sound, humane, and guaranteed way to kill time-gnats: write them down. Done, voila, dead as a doornail. You kill a time-gnat by writing it down. Here is the procedure: take an index card and write this across the top: Dead Gnat File. Index card are good because it’s easily placed in an appointment book or wallet. If you’re totally digital, make an electronic file for the same purpose. Many prefer to scribble things down on paper, especially Baby-Boomers. Now that you’ve killed off those time gnats flying around in your head, time management becomes a simpler task.

Recognize that many time-gnats are not very important, and that’s one of the reasons you allow them to buzz around in your head instead of killing them by writing them down. Read your Dead Gnat File at least once a week and—this is important—transfer any dead gnat that becomes important from your Dead Gnat File to your to-do list, and schedule it for handling. As you transfer the gnat to your to-do list, cross it off the Dead Gnat File.This, you will find, is fun. Also cross out any dead gnats that are no longer of any importance. If it becomes important in the future, that means it has come alive, and you have to kill it again by writing it down again.

Kill time-gnats immediately. When one enters your head, write it down. Enjoy the vast amount of time you just created—just by altering your perception.

Copyright © 2013 by Russell F. Moran

This article is excerpted from The APT Principle: The Business Plan That You Carry in Your Head by Russell F. Moran

 

The APT Principle: The Business Plan that You Carry in Your Head
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Business Planning—Don’t Avoid It— How to Do It

If it's worth doing, it's worth planning for
If it’s worth doing, it’s worth planning for

The APT Principle: The Business Plan that You Carry in Your Head
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A business without a plan has as its guiding principle one word: luck. And luck comes in two forms, good luck and bad luck. Would you embark on a boating trip without planning your trip? Of course not. You might get to your destination, or you might sink on the way. The purpose of a business plan is to prevent your business from sinking. Without a plan you lurch from crisis to crisis and miss a lot of opportunities along the way.

If you seek financing for your business, either a bank loan or venture capital through selling equity, having a business plan is not an option – it’s a necessity. Bankers and investors are not interested in your sparkling personality. They want to see numbers; they want you to show them why they should give you money. In a funny scene in the movieShampoo, Warren Beatty, playing a womanizing hairdresser, is sitting before a banker discussing a loan to start up his own salon. In response to the banker’s pointed questions, all Beatty could say was: “I got the heads” (meaning his many lady customers). The banker wanted to see more of a business plan than that.

 

It’s a How-To Manual for Your Business

A business plan is a “how-to manual” specifically designed for your business. Think of it as a manual for how to get it done, the “it” being the sum of your goals. When you buy a new car, you get a huge owner’s manual and login instructions to a website with a gazillion megabytes. Doesn’t your business deserve as much?

The business plan is written on paper, not carved in stone, and it should be amended to account for new opportunities and realities. It is not a constitution and need not go through a complicated process for amendment. We often hear the famous quote “Make a decision and stick to it.” Like many famous quotations, you should question its wisdom. By all means stick to a decision, including all of those decisions in a business plan, but, be willing to change your decision and your plans when reality dictate. In Barbara Tuchman’s book The Guns of August, she discussed how World War I could have been avoided, if only the German general staff been willing to reverse the decision to mobilize for war. The German high command was steeped in a philosophy that once plans have been set in motion, they should not be stopped. President Kennedy, during the Cuban missile blockade, stated that he wished that every officer on the bridge of every ship would have read Tuchman’s prophetic warnings. Nothing in a plan, military or business, should be considered carved into granite.

The business plan focuses you like no other document in your office. It should be referred to regularly and with discipline. Make an appointment in your calendar to review it regularly.

Don’t Make it Complicated (Any More Than Necessary)

A lot of business people are intimidated by the complexity of the many business planning software tools out there. This is not the fault of the business plan software developers, bless their hearts, because they only mean to give you everything that you could possibly need. But many of the modules in the various programs do not apply to the basic small business. If your business is one you have no intentions of going public, or one for which you have no thoughts of seeking equity financing, you should err on the side of making the plan simple—or else you will never get it done! If you do plan major financing, whether debt or equity, you will want some consulting horsepower under your hood anyway. There are professionals who can assist you in writing the complex plan. There is also software to make the task easier. Business Plan Pro, by PaloAlto Software, is a popular tool. See www.businessplanpro.com. They’ll take you through the plan, step by step, and provide an explanation and examples for each module of the plan.

Components of the Formal Business Plan

Executive summary: This is a top-level overview of your business, essential for any third party, such as a banker. You do not want to bore a banker. They are boring enough. Use this to explain what your business is, what you’re up to, and why the reader of your plan may want to lend or invest.

Objectives: This part is important if financing is one of the purposes of the plan. It is also a useful guide for you, and it should be written with your goals right next to you. Items such as “break even by 2014” or “sales of $5 million” or “net profit of $1 million by 2015” should be listed here.

Mission: A mission statement isn’t just for companies like IBM; it allows you to express your vision for your business. You need to spend some time on this and turn your thoughts loose. It should be inspirational, thought provoking, and realistic. Part of Google’s mission statement is “Don’t be Evil.” This seems a bit weird, no? Don’t we all want to avoid evil without necessarily stating it? When writing your mission statement you might want to be guided by a principle: “don’t write stupid sounding mission statements.” Once your mission statement is written, you should memorize it and post it prominently throughout your office.

Keys to success: List, as extensively as possible, the major components that you see as the keys that will unlock your goals. It may include providing regular sales training, developing community relationships, hiring a skilled IT professional, or marketing through direct mail campaigns. You are the expert here. This is a good place to focus your thoughts. Here you develop Best Practices.

Company summary: This is a thumbnail of your business, not as detailed as the executive summary. This is one of the many useful places for a third party to refer to quickly.

Company ownership: This is a brief statement that describes who owns your business, whether shareholders in a corporation, partners in a partnership, or members in a limited liability company (LLC), or just you.

Start-up summary: If this applies to you, it is a summary of the steps it will take to launch the business, including a synopsis of the costs from the next section. It should be compelling and realistic. If someone—you for that matter—notices a huge revenue projection for the first year with only minor costs, you are kidding nobody but yourself.

Start-up costs: Again, if this applies to you, make it detailed and realistic. Be specific in coming up with your numbers. If your initial costs involve heavy direct mail advertising, check to see if a postal rate increase is on the horizon, and don’t forget the cost of the envelopes and return postage.

Company location and physical facilities: Be detailed. If there is something good to say, such as “excellent high-profile location,” say it here and include photographs.

Goods and Services: A summary of everything that your company sells. A self storage company, besides listing the obvious rental of storage units, would include here items like storage boxes, wrapping materials, soft drinks, coffee—anything that a customer pays money for.

Services (detailed description): This is a good place to focus on all the services you provide, including some that may surprise you. A guy who had a large graphic design company also served as a free drop-off point for advertising agencies to submit entries for advertising award competitions. This brought in no revenue, but it was a powerful public relations tool and rainmaker for his design business.

Competition: Nobody wants to think about it, but this is where you must think about it—carefully. This is an opportunity to distinguish yourself from the competition without trying to pull the wool over your own eyes. I have a young friend who asked me recently to kick around an idea he had for an Internet business. His concept was to provide a site for people to give their opinions of local businesses and professionals. I asked him if he ever heard of Angie’s List, the 12 foot gorilla of consumer sentiment sites. He never heard of it. If someone has “occupied the space” (to use a phrase from the Internet), you should face head-on how you will muscle into that space. This doesn’t mean that you should not proceed in the face of competition—far from it. Just be aware of who your competitors are and how you can be better.

Sales literature: Provide a brief description of your current literature, and insert copies of the brochures on the following pages or in an appendix. This is a good place to refer to your website for updates—and another reason to make sure your website is just that: up-to-date.

Fulfillment: Think of fulfillment as how you provide your service or product. Depending on what you are selling, fulfillment costs can be quite high, but this can be offset by purchasing UPS or Federal Express labels in bulk and charging the customer a reasonable shipping and handling fee.

Future services: Allow your marketing mind to go wild, and think about additional services you may bring to market. An insurance broker, for example, may think about providing fee-based risk management services. There is a food distributor in New York who has an extensive list of training courses for the food industry. He has turned his company into the regional food university. He charges for the courses and, more important, converts a lot of the attendees into customers.

Market analysis: What and who is the market for your goods and services? This is a critical part of your business plan. Spend some time here; you may come up with markets that you never thought of. Consider, for example, a young woman who opened an organic fresh foods deli. The reason she didn’t have a lot of competition is that selling fresh organic foods is very expensive, but she saw markets where a lesser mortal may have only seen high food costs. She supplies lunch services to large corporations and university meetings—people who love to feel that they are helping the environment and can afford her necessarily high prices. Can you see how the business plan is not just a place to write things but an actual tool for helping you create your business?

Market segmentation: An insurance broker may have thought her market was homeowners but, upon examination, realized that 60 percent came from businesses with a minimum of 20 employees. The first place to look is your market as it exists now. By looking at what you have and then imagining where you can go, you will come up with ideas about how you can target certain market segments. A dentist realized that a large part of his new practice might be children. He hooked up a VCR (this was a few years ago – today it would be a DVD player) in the waiting room and showed child-oriented dental health videos. The parents loved it, and they spread the word.

Market segment strategy: If you have identified your market segments, what is your plan to capitalize on that knowledge? Just as the dentist above, you can come up with all sorts of imaginative ways to strategize on market segmentation. There is a guy who immigrated to the United States from Brazil many years ago. He realized that Portuguese is not a commonly spoken language in America, especially Brazilian Portuguese. He has a successful limousine and tour business, catering strictly to Brazilian tourists and business people.

Market needs: What is your market missing? Come up with the answers to that question and combine it with your ability to provide it, and your business plan will be a success just from this module. The time-worn saying about the world beating a path to your door if you invent the better mousetrap couldn’t be truer. Your market might be missing something that exists, but should be better.

 

Market trends: Here you will need to do some research. You should not answer this question from your “gut feeling,” although the feeling in your gut often leads you to good research. Some people say that the way to spot market trends is simply to study what the late, great Steve Jobs did. But Steve Jobs was a rare force of nature—he didn’t spot trends, he made them. Read the business pages of newspapers, subscribe to good business magazines like Forbes or Inc., read your local business journals and attend trade shows. Keep in motion, and keep your eyes and ears open.

Market growth: You will learn about market growth during your research on market trends. A business plan is a place for you to think about the pressures outside the walls of you business. If you are in a very slow growing market or a stagnant one, you have some serious analysis ahead of you. When was the last time you saw a TV repair shop? A long time ago. Once, this was a thriving industry; but with the advent of printed circuit boards replacing vacuum tubes, the TV repair market and TV repair shops disappeared almost overnight. Look at some of the other things that were once all the rage and are now disappearing: fax machines (replaced with e-mail attachments or virtual fax services) and CD-ROMs, which were extremely popular a few years ago, just around the time that the Internet came into its own. We were amazed at the massive storage capacity of a typical CD-ROM: 650 megabytes. Now, a $15 flash drive can hold many gigabytes. If you believe the late Steve Jobs (and who doesn’t believe Steve Jobs), our storage needs in the future will be in “the Cloud,” not on a physical device.

Your business analysis: Here you’ll discuss yourspecific business, its prospects, and how it fits into the marketplace. It should be a clearly written narrative, explaining everything about the market and your business that you can think of. People often make the mistake of writing a business plan with befuddling jargon or stilted words. Clear writing is for everyone, including you when you refer back to your plan in the future. Would you rather read “We work within a demographic paradigm of differential age cohorts” or “Our market is spread over different age groups”?

Sales forecast: This will be presented in graphs, charts, or diagrams, accompanied by a text summary. Recall that very funny TV commercial for Federal Express where an assistant security checker calls his boss to look at the air traveler’s presentation portfolio. “He’s leading with sales figures,” yells the assistant, while the security supervisor says, “I’m bored” and then starts to snore. There is a lesson to be learned here: save the good stuff for last, including sales projections, to build a sense of suspense—assuming your plan is aimed at a potential financier. And, by all means, use color. Don’t exaggerate—and watch your credibility?

Strategic alliances: If you have them, this is the place to discuss them. Traditional shippers hook up with Internet powerhouses, grocers align with food distributers, and software developers pal around with business seminar groups. A strategic alliance can move your business forward much farther than its own resources alone. A strategic alliance is a classic win-win for all members of the alliance.

Milestones: What are the major milestones that you want to achieve? Some examples might include logo design, a commercial website, or a computer network setup. These milestones should be specific and should include budget numbers and estimated dates of completion. Some milestones must be reached before other things can happen. This is just plain common sense business planning. For example, you would not want to do a direct mail campaign before you have a well-functioning website to which you will refer in the direct mail pieces. “Coming soon” often means “We don’t have a lot of capital, so we’re trying to bootstrap it.” Don’t call attention to problems, and that’s why planning your milestones carefully is critical.

Management summary: This is a discussion of your management team, or yourself, if you are the team at present. Say as many good things about your key people as possible. If Melissa Jones, your finance manager, graduated from SUNY at Oneonta, that’s fine, but don’t leave out the fact that she graduated magna cum laude and won the finance medal.

Management team gaps: You need to carefully analyze what is missing from your team. Some personnel positions, such as IT, can be farmed out; but others, such as finance and accounting, might need to be employed managers. Here, you should also include a discussion of future plans for hiring managers.

Financial plan: Do you intend to finance future growth through cash flow, debt, or equity financing? You’ll want to include a textual review here accompanied by financials. The plan should show a projected income statement, cash flow forecast, and balance sheet. It might be helpful to break these out as separate main headings. Financial planning is a basic element of a good business plan.

Assumptions: Any future-looking financial plan is based on assumptions. You assume that you will sell X number of widgets or have X number of clients/customers paying you Y amount of dollars while you spend Z amount in expenses. These assumptions should all be in your plan. If you are working in an Excel spreadsheet, these assumptions should appear at the bottom or as comments in a data cell (comments are the little text bubbles that appears when you hover your mouse over the cell). Did you ever look at a financial statement entry and ask yourself, “What the hell does this mean?” In a business plan, you or anyone reading it, should never have to ask that question.

Breakeven analysis: This important part of your business plan shows, based on your assumptions, how much business you need to break even at a point in the future. If yours is an existing business, this may not be appropriate, unless you haven’t broken even yet. But in the hands of a competent spreadsheet designer, it can be exciting to show that you broke even two years ago and are now on a serious profit trajectory. If you are a start-up, knowing when you can expect to break even is a question of major importance. How much cash, your own or a bank’s or investor’s, will you “burn through” before the red ink turns black?

Ratios: You should discuss business ratios with your accountant, who should point you to resources for finding key ratios for your type of business or industry. This is something that any accountant should do as a matter of course but it is not always done. Ask for it. If he doesn’t provide it, ask for it louder. Understanding ratios is a good skill to develop. A seasoned financial person can breeze through a complex set of financials in short order because he or she knows what ratios to look for, since they are key indicators of the health of a business.

A Business Plan That isn’t Used is a Waste of Paper

Once your plan is completed, don’t file it away and forget it. You should refer to it constantly, perhaps weekly. Set a date in your appointment book to do just that.

Failing to plan is planning to fail. The first part of planning is to begin. How about now?

Parts of this article are excerpted from the book The APT Principle: The Business Plan That You Carry in Your Head © 2012 by Russell F. Moran

 

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Studying for the Bar Exam? A Few Tips

Think of the Bar Exam as a Challenge, Not An Obstacle

 If you’re studying for the bar exam and you’re not nervous, consider a career in litigation. You are one tough customer. Studying for the bar exam is not just an intellectual exercise but an emotional and physical, yes physical, one as well. Many years ago, when I studied for the New York State Bar Exam, I had a knot in my stomach that didn’t go away until I finished the test. It was then replaced by another knot as I waited the envelope – Yes, thatenvelope. I went to law school in Chicago, so I had to cram New York law into my head with a vengeance. As the exam approached I had so much law in my noggin that it would squirt out of my ears if I sat down abruptly.

I’m happy to say that I passed the first time around. Well, happiness doesn’t quite describe the feeling. It was more like elation. I could get on with my career, and perhaps just as important, I didn’t have to go through the arduous cramming process again. Studying for the bar was such a challenging experience for me that I can still recall those months of effort even though it has been decades since I went through it. I was inspired to write this article after a recent conversation with a very nervous young woman who is taking the bar next month. I hope these tips will be helpful. If you happen to be reading this article just out of curiosity and you’re not studying for the bar, please pass it along to an aspiring lawyer who is.

Your Attitude

Attitude is number one on the list because everything else flows from it. Here are some things to consider:

  • You can and will pass. This is not just a piece of positive thinking, although positivity beats the hell out of negativity. No, it’s simply an expression of the truth. Make it your truth. You successfully made it through law school, which means that you have taken a lot of exams. You can pass the bar as well. And just think: you don’t need an A; you just need to pass.
  • Fear. It’s combination of thought and emotion that can cloud your judgment, not to mention interfere with your studying. Consider this: fear is not a thing, it’s a thought. That’s right, it’s just a thought and it’s hooked to an emotion. Try this simple mental exercise to address your fearful thoughts when they show up. Yes, address them as you would an unpleasant person. Speak (mentally, or even better, out loud if you’re alone). Why not say : “Hi fear. I just saw you crawl into my head. I hate to be disrespectful, but you’re just a thought, and not one that I intended to have. So I’ll simply ask you to leave. You may be back, but please don’t expect a welcome.” Don’t fight it; just ask it to leave.
  • Doubt. You should have studied more for that course on commercial paper. You can recite the rule against perpetuities but you’re not sure you understand it. Maybe you should have signed up for a different bar review course. All of this stuff will go through your head. Don’t be concerned. Just like fear, doubts are thoughts. Just politely ask them to leave.
  • You don’t have enough time to study. Of course you do. If you’re employed and have to study at night, manage your time and you will control your study.
  • If I don’t pass the first time I will be disgraced. Two things here; first, you will pass. Drill that into your brain. Secondly, many a brilliant person didn’t make it on the first go-around. Nobody thinks of the late John F. Kennedy, Jr. as a dummy. On the contrary, he was a very bright guy. But it took him three tries to pass the bar. I mention that in passing, because you are going to pass the first time.

 Some Specific Things You Should Do—and Avoid

  • Get exercise. Exercise calms you down, enhances sleep and makes your brain work better. At a minimum, you should walk for a half-hour every day. It provides oxygen for your brain and it will help you retain more of what you study. When I studied for the bar I was overwhelmed by fatigue caused by lack of sleep. I went to the doctor who gave me some simple advice. Get exercise.
  • If you smoke, now is not the time to give it up. You have enough on your plate. but consider cutting down. Heavy smoking will make you feel terrible and will do nothing for your studying.. Maybe reward yourself with a smoke every 2 hours.
  • Watch comedies if you take an occasional TV break,. Nothing helps the psyche better than a good laugh.
  • One month prior to the exam do not speak to anyone else who is preparing for it. This is a mental issue: you will think the others are better prepared than you (which is unlikely); it will toy with your attitude and take you off focus. You have enough worries about the bar exam; don’t look for more.
  • Follow familiar habits. If you have a favorite place to study and read, don’t change it just because you think the bar exam requires a break from the old.
  • Listen to baroque music. There is a lot of evidence that music of the baroque era (about 1600 to 1750) calms you and helps you to focus mentally. So pop on some Bach, Handel or Vivaldi and boogie.
  • Listen to the tips from the folks conducting your bar review course. They know what they’re doing, and the success of their business depends on keeping students satisfied. They try to psych out what questions will appear based on the major legal issues of the day.
  • During the bar exam, when you break for lunch you will probably dine with some fellow exam takers. DO NOT, under any circumstances, discuss the exam. Invariably somebody will say “On that question about the holder in due course rule, the answer was b, wasn’t it.” You were sure the answer was “d.” Now your head is messed up. Instead, talk about sports, Lady Gaga, Saturday Night Live, anything but the law. Also avoid politics or anything that may stir up turmoil while you lunch. And watch the carbohydrates. Carbs can make you drowsy.

Enjoy the exam! I’m not kidding. If you prepare mentally, emotionally and physically you will take it as a challenge, not an obstacle.

Copyright © 2013 by Russell F. Moran All rights reserved

The writer of this article, an attorney, is the author of Justice in America: How it Works – How it Fails. Coddington Press 2011. See more information below.

 

 

 

 

 

The Author’s Book

Justice in America: How it Works - How it Fails
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Business Communications – Why a Business Needs a Freelance Writer

Business Needs Freelance Writers

They hire all of these folks for two reasons. First, it’s cheaper than paying them as salaried employees. No benefits, no sick days, no vacations, no FICA no hassles. But the main reason businesses farm out work is because they’re need special talents, expertise that’s beyond the skills of existing employees.

Bad Writing Costs Businesses a Fortune

The American College Board did a study in 2004 of 120 major corporations in the Business Roundtable. The study was updated in 2013. The study was not a small sampling. Questionnaires were sent to over 120 human resource executives and the response rate was 53.3 percent. These companies employ over four million workers. Take a sip of water. The study found that over one third, that’s about 1.33 million employees, are deficient in writing skills. More than 40 percent of the firms surveyed say they offer or require remedial writing courses for their employees. One respondent estimated that his company sends 200 to 300 employees annually for remedial writing training. This translates into an enormous amount of money wasted by American corporations. The study, which was headed up by former Senator Bob Kerry, also found that the price tag for poor writing is about $3.1 billion dollars a year. It costs $3,000 per employee just for remedial writing training.

Business Writing – Not a Do-it-Yourself Job

A business communicates with the public and with its existing customers. If it doesn’t, it’s no longer a business. Whether it’s a press release, a policy change announcement, or a holiday good will message, a business must communicate – or die.

Yet there is one area of specialized skills that most managers think they have in-house: communicating with the written word. They wouldn’t dream of setting a staffer loose on a legal or tax question, but they think that every employee knows how to write. But we’re in a world of flying thumbs and Internet shortcuts. We’re in a world of communications such as : “c u l8 ter.”

Many executives and business owners don’t think that writing is a specialized skill, just an application of a basic education. And this is how a business often gets into trouble. As the Business Roundtable study found, there is a crisis in writing skills in American companies. So even if a manager would like to assign writing assignments to current employees, he or she has a very limited pool from which to draw.

Even if a company has an employee who is a talented writer, chances are that person was hired to perform other valuable tasks. For example, a skilled programmer from the IT department has to set his work aside to tackle a writing assignment. Who does his job while he is writing?

Writing is a craft, a specialized set of skills. A professional writer knows that writing means more than a sentence with correct grammar, although that’s essential. It means more than correct spelling and punctuation, although they’re essential too. A writer knows that writing means communicating a message, telling a story. What is a press release? It’s a story. What is a letter to customers or clients? It’s a story. What is a business plan? It’s a story.

What Writers Know

Writers know how to tell stories, fictional or nonfictional. Writers know that a story has to grab a reader’s attention in the first couple of sentences, and then keep the reader’s eyes on the page until the end of the story.

Writers know that sentences need to have an impact, not just correct grammar, punctuation and spelling.

Writers know that needless words are needless.

They know that the active tense is almost always better than the passive.

They know that excessive use of adverbs is lazy writing, and bores the reader.

Writers know that the right word can mean the difference between a good message and one that falls flat.

Writers, at least the good ones, know that they write for the reader, not themselves. They know that it’s not their job to call attention to themselves with cute phrases or million dollar words. They know it’s their job to talk to the reader.

Writers know these things because they practice a craft, the craft of writing.

Does it Make Sense for a Business to Use Freelance Writers?

Yes, it does. I mentioned the problem of Internet writing and the trashing of the language for the sake of speed and brevity. Twitter, useful as it may be, creates havoc with the English language, and a lot of other languages at that.

So yes, it makes sense to hire freelance writers. A company may have a few excellent writers who have the time to devote to writing, but the odds are poor, as the College Board study suggests.

What Kind of Assignments Are Appropriate for Freelance Writers?

Here are but a few:

    • Press releases – Say it wrong and you may as not well make the announcement.
    • Annual reports – They’re on paper. You need to get it right. These reports are read by investment advisors as well as individual and institutional investors. Not a place for an amateur writer.
    • Business Plan – A lot of cooks make this stew, and one of them should be a professional writer.
    • Announcements to customers or clients. Most of these are wordy snooze inducers. Writers can make them powerful.
    • Speeches. A good writer knows that a speech has to grab an audience just like a reader.
    • Any letter of significance to a customer, supplier or potential partner. Screw one of these up and a fortune can be lost.
    • Website content. So many websites never change because management never gets around to adding content. Let a writer do it.
    • Blog posts – If you can’t say it well, don’t post it. Let a writer handle the task.
    • Facebook posts – Like blog posts, Facebook, the mother of all social media sites, screams for good writing.
    • Tweets – A good writer can pack a lot into 140 characters.
    • White Papers. A white paper, sort of a how-to manual, is an article of about five to ten pages. It’s not as blatantly sales orientated as a product brochure, but rather is intended to educate the reader on an issue, an issue that’s related to your business.

    Corporations and professionals hire freelance writers for a reason. They recognize that their message, indeed their brand, requires a professional touch.

    Copyright © 2014  by Russell F. Moran – All Rights Reserved

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Customer Reviews of Justice in America

5.0 out of 5 stars A book on law and justice that non-lawyers can enjoy, December 27, 2011

By John D. White

This review is from: Justice in America: How it Works – How it Fails (Paperback)

The previous reviews express well my own pleasure in reading Moran’s excellent book. I am a retired instructor of U.S. history and government issues both in high school and college. As I read it, I often thought that this accessible work could serve as an introduction and review to inspire students. The issues it covers suggest lively topics for research projects and term papers. Fresh cases from the news remind the reader that justice requires attention to changes in society. Current justice issues demand consideration based on equity rather than mere review of past concerns. Kudos to Moran for a readable contribution to better thinking by all of us, and not just by prosecutors, judges and legislatures.

To read further or order a copy click here.

 

5.0 out of 5 stars Required Reading for Americans, October 9, 2011

By Phil Boyle

This review is from: Justice in America: How it Works – How it Fails (Paperback)

“Justice in America: How it Works, How it Fails,” offers us a behind-the-scenes civics lesson on the American judicial system the way it is rather than the way we would like it to be. Extremely well-researched and written, the book gives us unique insights into a system that was the very basis upon which our nation was founded. I highly recommend Russell Moran’s “Justice in America” for lawyers and non-lawyers alike. Whenever I finish a book, I ask myself what it taught me. Even as an attorney and state legislator for many years, “Justice in America” has taught me – and it will teach you – a great deal!

 

5.0 out of 5 stars An Intelligent and Conversational Primer of the American System of Justice, September 16, 2011

By Vickie Cella

This review is from: Justice in America: How it Works – How it Fails (Paperback)

I was not looking to read a book on law, but I decided to read Justice in America when it was recommended to me by a friend. I’m glad I did. While I’m not totally ignorant of our legal system, this book was an eye-opener for me. It is really a primer on our system of justice for the layperson. The author does not assume that the reader is a lawyer, and sets forth some very complicated material in with conversational style, laced with a lot of humor. He starts the book with some challenging scenarios to get the reader thinking about the very concept of justice, and how we perceive it. The chapter about the details of the courts and the legal system was a bit dry, but I pushed through it because the information it contained was an education in itself. I found the chapter on the history of Supreme Court decisions fascinating, and a bit upsetting. I had no idea how political the Supreme Court can be. The chapter on torts was also enlightening. It was a tour through the busiest part of the court system. Judges and lawyers were always a bit of a mystery to me, at least how they work professionally. Moran solves the mystery, and humanizes both professions. He isn’t afraid to offer criticism, sometimes severe, sometimes very funny, but never unfair. He obviously respects his fellow lawyers, but throws a punch when he sees necessary. I now know more about judges than I ever thought to ask, including details on how they get their jobs, how they are paid, and how they perform their jobs. I enthusiastically recommend this book to anyone who ever wondered how the American system of justice really works. A top notch job

 

Irresistible reading!, August 8, 2011

By Skipper

This review is from: Justice in America: How it Works – How it Fails (Paperback)

I have just finished Russell Moran’s “Justice in America…” and cannot praise its content, style and message highly enough. As a layman with perhaps an interest in our judicial system only a notch or two higher than a motorist receiving a speeding citation, it is the rare pleasure of finding a book truly difficult to put down that has moved me to write an enthusiastic review.
Mr. Moran exhibits that uncommon quality that makes even a casual reader feel he is being spoken to simply and directly. Missing is that self-inflating oratory that some attorneys use to create complexity out of simplicity when practicing their chosen profession.

As I said in the beginning, I cannot recommend this enlightening little home-grown American book highly enough. Try it, and I think you will agree. Kudos, Mr. Moran!

 

5.0 out of 5 stars Justice in America: This book works for me, July 21, 2011

By Fr Rick

This review is from: Justice in America: How it Works – How it Fails (Kindle Edition)

I downloaded the Kindle version of “Justice in America”, and enjoyed its content and style.Not being a lawyer, this book was a great inside look into history and current flow of our American system of Justice. Mr Moran’s points and view are very clear,and his good humor also shows through.

If I find a consistent point of view in this book: That our human capacity towards making just and fair decisions is easy eroded by simple rules such as “zero-tolerance”, and “3 strikes and your out” actually remove human from making just decisions. Thus Justice, through the law, is best served by a solid frame works of laws which demands our best thinking and decision making. Anything else can lead to greater in-justice.

Recommended!

 

5.0 out of 5 stars Review of Justice in America by Russell F. Moran, September 14, 2011

By Robert L. Shearer

This review is from: Justice in America: How it Works – How it Fails (Paperback)

Review of Justice in America by Russell F. Moran

This is the most engaging description of the Law that I have ever read. Mr. Moran shows the intricacies of legal issues (that turn out to be personal, social, and economic issues after all is said and done) clearly. His personal ideological leanings are transparent, which I appreciate, but do not get in the way of the reader’s understanding. On the matter of rising interest in the selection of judges–elections, appointments by panels, or political dictates–Mr. Moran’s exposition of the pros and cons is lucid, balanced, and helpful.
I would happily recommend this short book to anyone interested in going to law school and anyone else who would like to make sense out of the news. Thanks to Russell Moran for giving us this insightful and delightful read.
With the author, I’m putting my money in tulips!
5.0 out of 5 stars Justice in America: How it Works – How it Fails, September 6, 2011

By James D. Sutton

This review is from: Justice in America: How it Works – How it Fails (Paperback)

An entertaining and informative book providing the reader with insights on our American legal system. Moran highlights in a humorous & intelligent way, the fairness and frustrations anyone could encounter with the law and why we arrive at decisions that sometimes seem at odds at what should have happened in a perfect world. Clearly Moran cares deeply about the American justice system and the issues that threaten the quality of the work performed on behalf of its citizenry. This book should be a “must read” for any student contemplating a career in the legal profession. An enjoyable read I know I will reference again and again in the years ahead. James D. Sutton, President, J.F. Sutton Insurance Agency – New York.

 

 

 

5.0 out of 5 stars Frank Orzo, September 6, 2011

By FrankNY

This review is from: Justice in America: How it Works – How it Fails (Paperback)

“Moran has written a book about what some may consider a complex, byzantine-type subject and humanized it. He explains in simple examples and anecdotal references – to which we can all relate – the process of the justice system in the US. It is also written in a conversational and entertaining style that made me want to keep reading to peel back the layers of this very broad topic. I hope he will continue to educate, enlighten and entertain.”

 

5.0 out of 5 stars Stimulating read!, August 19, 2011

By Joseph Perino, Ph.D. (NY)

This review is from: Justice in America: How it Works – How it Fails (Paperback)

Justice in America How it Works – How it Fails by Russell F. Moran is an illuminating synopsis of our judicial system. The author is uniquely qualified for such an endeavor since he is an attorney, a publisher and former editor-in-chief of The New York Jury Verdict Reporter. He brings to the reader an assessment of the workings of the American legal system and explores how our methods differ from the rest of world.

The book is simultaneously simple and complex. To read this well researched book one does not have to know the difference between a tort and a tart. However, upon completion, a newbie or a seasoned attorney will come away with a wealth of knowledge. He describes the selections of judges, their salaries and how they come to their decisions. In actuality, he covers the entire judicial process.

The book is written in a conversational tone. The narrative vicariously includes the reader to become part of the system. As you read through the text you will be surprised as to what defines justice and fairness. When you examine some of the decisions that have been passed down you will find it to be thought provoking and at times stunning.

The book tweaks the imagination to the point that the reader has to ponder if true justice exists. Moran is clever when he implies that justice is a matter of perspective and perception rather than an absolute principle.

Many readers will be especially interested in chapter 12 where Moran covers the subject of torts. He defines a tort as a civil wrong which also may be a crime. This gives the reader a bird’s eye view of personal injury law. Since most of us have had or know someone who has had experience with personal injury cases, such as car accidents, slip and fall, medical malpractice, defective products, etc., this section will be especially enjoyable.

If you want a fresh perspective of how our legal system works (and doesn’t) this book will give you the opportunity to view it from many angles. The book has a very stimulating and exceptional delivery. Once I opened the book I couldn’t put it down. I highly recommend this creative work.

 

4.0 out of 5 stars Mystery no more, August 14, 2011

By Steve

This review is from: Justice in America: How it Works – How it Fails (Paperback)

John Grisham novels about the justice system are popular mysteries and now Russell Moran has written a popular book about the justice system that’s not a mystery! You’d think we would know a bit more from our civics lessons about how the judicial branch of government works in this country. Fortunately, “Justice in America” aims to help us with that, by shining some clear light on all the judicial and legal goings on. Once again, we see, through Mr. Moran’s narrative, that mass culture’s view, in this case, of “justice” in America, is not always coupled with reality. This book is sometimes brutally frank and to the point and blows the powder out of those arcane judicial wigs!

 

5.0 out of 5 stars Justice in America, August 11, 2011

By bhlaw

This review is from: Justice in America: How it Works – How it Fails (Paperback)

This book is both thought provoking and fun to read. Whether you are a layperson or a lawyer practicing before judges, as I am, you will learn how the judges in our country are selected, and come to appreciate the pitfalls to obtaining truly wise, even-dispositioned people to sit on the bench. How the judge is appointed in the first place – whether appointed or elected- and the term of that appointment – whether for life or for a set term- affects how justice is dispensed. The salary of judges – often very underpaid relative to the opportunities of private practice- futher plays a role in determining the people who will decide the fate of litigants and how the law of the land is applied. Moran does a great job researching how justice (or lack of it) is tweaked by the very basic process of judicial selection. I recommend this book to anyone with an inquisitive mind who wants to know more about our judicial system.

Thanks for the research and analysis!

 

5.0 out of 5 stars Justice in America EXPOSED!!!, August 10, 2011

By Tom Cilmi

This review is from: Justice in America: How it Works – How it Fails (Paperback)

As an elected official in the Suffolk County Legislature, I was very interested to dig in to this critical, historic work by Russell Moran. Moran delivers a concise, interesting perspective on the judiciary in the United States. I particularly liked the sub-heads within each chapter which helped make this a particularly easy read. Justice defined. System defined. Judges defined. This is a comprehensive, yet remarkably quick read for anyone interested in the judicial system. Whether you’re a student or an accomplished attorney…whether you fancy yourself a future justice or someone who just wants to know how it all works, this is a great book for you. I highly recommend it.
Well Thought Out, Well Researched, July 28, 2011

5.0 out of 5 stars Well Thought Out, Well Researched, July 28, 2011

By Eric Buehler

This review is from: Justice in America: How it Works – How it Fails (Paperback)

I recently purchased a copy of Russell Moran’s new book “Justice In America” because of my fascination with the American judicial system. I consider myself fairly knowledgable on law, but I am certainly not an academic or an attorney for that matter.

Mr. Moran has written a concise and extremely well-researched tome outlining how our legal system attempts to deliver justice; the education, training, vocation, and compensation of judges; torts; and the Supreme Court and their handling of several critical doctrines. Also included as reference (smartly I might add) is the United States Constitution – the very words this country lives by which, though written in black and white, now seem to have an endless grey area.

Mr. Moran has developed an educated yet easy-to-read book for the layman who wants to further his or her knowledge of the American legal system. Mr. Moran takes the simple premise “Do good and avoid evil” (the premise of any factual law book) and uses his wisdom as an attorney and court report publisher to accurately explain how and when justice is served in our country, or if it is simply a threatened enitity like an endandgered animal.

I would highly recommend “Justice in America” to anyone with an interest in our justice system

 

5.0 out of 5 stars A Remedial Course for the Powerful; A Tutorial for the Unenlightened, October 29, 2011

By Robert Banfelder “Award-winning Author (Riverhead, NY: Spearhead of the North and South Forks of Long Island)

This review is from: Justice in America: How it Works – How it Fails (Paperback)

“Justice In America: How It Works – How It Fails” pays tribute to the immortal words of Winston Churchill given during his 1947 House of Commons speech: “Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.” Russell F. Moran, Esquire navigates the neophyte as well as advanced students and practitioners of law through a labyrinth of what might otherwise prove to be an arcane maze. No pupil, lawyer or judge knows it all. Russell Moran–lawyer, journalist, founder and former publisher of the New York Jury Reporter–has pretty much covered it all. In a 206-page eye-opener, Moran has concisely and with acuity cut to the chase with remarkable clarity concerning matters of grave importance, which he often tempers with humor. The mix is marvelous; its juxtaposition delightful. The author’s magic is that he is able to take what is often presented in a stodgy style, livening up the prose with analogies and metaphors that shed light for the layman. Understanding complex issues is a godsend, and Moran delivers. In a nutshell, “Justice in America” is a fountain of knowledge introduced in digestible doses. Considering the negative argument of Moran’s thesis, I use the word doses because there is just so much a novice can handle in reading of those who sit in the seat of power–namely judges, magistrates and puisne Justices of the Peace–who have as much wherewithal as a wasp but can wreak just as much havoc. I use the word doses, too, for those who know the score yet act (act being the operative word) powerless to do anything about it.

When you reach the final page of “Justice In America: How It Works – How It Fails,” you realize, if you haven’t beforehand, the impact of Churchill’s words, spoken well over half a century ago. Over the course of years, many have spouted that what this country needs is a benign dictator. However, Moran challenges us to name one. Court historians (intellectual bodyguards of our United States) acknowledge that Abraham Lincoln was a dictator. However, that certain sect of historians continues to preserve the concept that Lincoln was benign. Good ol’ Abe threw the Constitution of the United States and the Bill of Rights out the window, along with the baby and the bathwater–thereby dividing a nation. Due process was abandoned and cost the lives of well over 600,000 men. Oh, Moran is so correct. Name one benevolent dictator.

Mr. Moran concludes with a caveat. The Framers of the Constitution, our Founding Fathers, wrote in clear and concise language. Reinterpreting that language or ignoring it altogether is at our own peril. Are we at a crossroad in America? Although Moran believes that justice in America is alive and well, the author is warning us to be careful, for the road to perdition (although he doesn’t directly name the material used) is paved with good intentions

 

 

5.0 out of 5 stars Andrea Rubin-de-Cervens – Exceptional !,March 26, 2012

By Andrea Rubin-de-Cervens (East Islip, New York United States)

This review is from: Justice in America: How it Works – How it Fails (Paperback)

How I wish this book was in print when I was in law school! Some thirty years later I can still recall with trepidation the cases cited by Moran in Justice in America and the confusion I felt in class trying to understand the issues. Here, though, the author provocatively explores them in a straightforward, easy to grasp manner, raising as many questions as answers.

Because Justice addresses many modern day issues it is so much more than simply a law school primer. Moran examines, among other things, such weighty topics as the economic meltdown. As a real estate attorney I read with relish his chapter on the real estate market. He accurately describes what a “starter house” used to mean (“The most attractive thing about the house is that you could afford it”) and what it meant just before the bubble burst (“…your starter house becomes your dream house. The basic requirement for qualifying for a mortgage in 2004 was that you had a pulse.”) Interestingly, he explores the reasons for housing crisis, while simultaneously raising and weaving a tapestry of ethical considerations.

Not only does Moran present these topics he, more importantly, provides the framework for truly understanding their significance. For instance, his reference to the “Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act”, popularly known as “Obamacare”, is attached to a discussion of the Constitution’s Commerce Clause. For those following the challenges to this law and the impending U.S. Supreme Court decision, Moran shows us that the Act’s relevance is more than simply a fight across the aisles of Congress. Just this past week, The New York Times ran an article about the significance of Wickard v. Filburn on the health care debate, a case which Moran adroitly explores in depth in Chapter 11. Likewise, Chapter 12, The Wild World of Torts, lays the groundwork for understanding legal claims, such as products liability, negligence, etc., while discussing popular cases like the McDonald’s “hot coffee case”. Moran colorfully and effortlessly brings these cases to life in ways none of my law professors ever could.

And, perhaps the best part of reading Justice is the author’s playful, humorous tone throughout. I laughed out loud reading about Sister Mary Agnes and what she knew. I certainly won’t tell; you will have to read Justice in America, for yourself! And for those of you who have already read this book and can’t get enough, I would suggest your exploring online the equally impressive The Moran Report, […]. Kudos to Russell F. Moran on a job well done!

 

 

A Sharp-Eyed Look at the Legal System with a Good Dose of Humor,January 14, 2012

By Kathleen Fox

This review is from: Justice in America: How it Works – How it Fails (Paperback)

I am an attorney myself, and was pleased that this book, written by a lawyer, did not read like a legal brief. The author writes with a wry sense of humor that sheds a bright light on complex matters. This book is a must for anyone who is looking for a well-researched primer on the American justice system, written with an engagingly light touch. It should be required reading for a beginning law student, or any student interested in studying law. It is also a treasure trove for the inquisitive layperson. The first chapter examines the question of just what is this thing called justice. He recounts a series of vignettes about justice delivered – or withheld — that amuse, educate, and shock. Moran’s survey of Supreme Court decisions for the last half century could be an introduction to constitutional law. His critique of our over-regulated society is dead on. I loved his chapter entitled: “What Sister Mary Agnes Knew That We Have Forgotten.” It is a somewhat sarcastic look at the strictures that well-intended laws placed on the American education system. I don’t practice personal injury law, and appreciated his chapter on torts – the largest part of our legal system. He throws a few literary punches at both judges and lawyers, but, on balance, provides the reader with an evenhanded view. A thoroughly enjoyable read.

To purchase the book, click here https://www.createspace.com/3637622

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Judges – Should Lawyers Select Them? An Idea To Consider

Judges. How do they get their jobs? How to become a judge is a question on the mind of a lot of lawyers.There is an ongoing debate in America about how we select judges. The Missouri Plan, which originated in that state in 1940, was a break from the traditional American system of popular election of judges. It is also known as the merit selection plan. A judge is nominated by a selection committee, and the governor picks from the list and makes the appointment. After one term, the judge then runs for a retention election before the voters. The idea behind the Missouri Plan, which is used in about 2-dozen states, is to rinse the politics out of the judiciary. I have been critical of the Missouri Plan because it results in the opposite of what was intended: it puts more politics into the system, not less. Take a look at Missouri itself. In my book, Justice in America: How it Works – How it Fails, I point out that in 17 out of 18 consecutive judicial appointees by the state commission were democrats. If this takes the politics out of judicial selection, I’m missing something. Instead of retail politics, we have back room politics.

On the other hand, there is the system of selecting judges by popular elections before the voters. This system, which amazes and baffles Europeans who have a much higher regard for expert pedigree than Americans, has its flaws. First, it brings money into the game – A lot of it, especially at the level of state supreme court elections. As in any political contest, candidates are forced to spend huge amounts of time fundraising, back slapping, baby kissing, and hand wringing. In the words of an Ohio Supreme Court Justice: “I never felt so much like a hooker down by the bus station … as I did in a judicial race. Everyone interested in contributing has very specific interests. They mean to be buying a vote.”  Remember that the end result of this mess is to elevate a person to a position that requires blind impartiality. Compounding these difficulties with popular judicial elections is the fact that the average voter doesn’t have a grasp on the qualities that go into a good judge. This doesn’t mean that the average voter is ignorant, just that they have not had the experience to make the call.

So if we want to leave politicians out of the system, as in “merit” selection, but at the same time are unhappy that voters understandably lack the qualification to pick judges, how do we pick ‘em? Mike Carroll, a lawyer from Illinois, in a Letter to the Editor of the Wall Street Journal, has come up with an idea that is worth looking at: let lawyers select judges. His idea is that the people who know the traits of a good judge are the people who are trained in the law, and who appear before judges.  Think about it. Lawyers are conservatives, moderates, and liberals. They are Democrats, Republicans, and Independents. Some are pro-plaintiff, some for the defense. What lawyers look for in judges generally are those qualities that are the hallmarks of a good judge: impartiality; even temperament; fairness; and strictness when required. Naturally, on a particular case, a lawyer doesn’t not want a fair judge, but one who is biased in favor of his client, but this is impossible to predict because lawyers don’t get to pick the judge who hears their cases. One criticism of such a plan would be that fundraisers would consist of rooms full of lawyers, checks in hand, looking for some future consideration should they have cases before that judge. But that’s exactly how it is now: rooms full of lawyers with checks. It isn’t that only lawyers are invited to these fundraisers; it‘s simply that lawyers are the ones who care. Most states have a rule that judicial candidates are not supposed to look at their donor lists. Yeah right; and kids don’t peek under the Christmas Tree.

So if lawyers are the majority of campaign donors, doesn’t that suck the impartiality out of the system? Not if there is full public disclosure, posted on the Internet, of all campaign contributions. This is the way it’s done in New York. I once sat in on a case in Buffalo, a retrial of a personal injury lawsuit. The judge on the original trial, since retired, was on the witness stand being grilled by the plaintiff’s attorney about contributions to his campaigns from the law firm defending the case. His credibility was on the line, with the plaintiff taking the position that he was not impartial because the defense firm donated loads of dough to help get him elected. Indeed, the United States Supreme Court found, in the case of Caperton v. Massy (129 S. Ct.2252), that large amounts of money donated to a judge’s campaign can impact the judge’s impartiality, and should require him to recuse himself from a given case.  Full public disclosure can eliminate a lot of mischief. Donor lists are available to the press of course.

But is it politically possible to have judges elected by lawyers only? Let’s face it, with popularity at the level of aluminum siding salesmen in the 1950s, lawyers are not the apple of the public’s eye. Would a legislator who introduced such a bill be putting his or her foot into a political beartrap? “My opponent wants to take away your right to vote for judges.” Nasty little sound bite, that. But like most sound bites, its brevity can mask the seriousness of the proposal.

Having lawyers elect judges is an idea worth looking at. Maybe Mike Carroll, Esq. from Illinois is onto something. What do you think? The only way to keep a conversation going is to, well, converse. Let’s hear your thoughts.

 

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American Exceptionalism – Do We Want to Become Europeans?

This article was excerpted from this book.

To read more or order your copy click here.

Liberty seldom disappears in a sudden cataclysm, but erodes over time in small steps, steps that are hardly noticeable because they just become the inevitable fabric of life. A yearning for individual liberty is part of our American DNA, and is baked into the cake that we know as American Exceptionalism, a phenomenon first observed by Alexis de Tocqueville.

But the complexities of the modern world spawn confusion, and even fear, as we try to negotiate the rapids of contemporary life. When people are fearful, they are less concerned about their yearnings for freedom, and more open to grabbing for lifelines of security to tether them to safety. Those lifelines, once the province of voluntary associations such as churches and civic associations, Edmund Burke’s “little platoons” of civil society, have been subsumed by the beneficent embrace of government. And government’s displacement of voluntary efforts has not been hostile, or even without our acquiescence. Life seems easier when government dispenses goodies to make the nasty vicissitudes of life go away. We get used to it, and worse, we get to like it.

Are we becoming European? Don’t get me wrong; I love Europe, the Europe built centuries ago by different societies. But Europe of today, with its secular devotion to the dispensations of government, is losing its collective way, if not its mind. Americans, still possessed of a bit of the old exceptionalism, look slack jawed at the spectacle of French twenty somethings setting fire to cars in protest against the possibility that, some 40-years hence, they may get to retire on the public dole at 62 rather than 60.  In Greece a hairdresser can retire at 50 because hair dressing is considered a hazardous occupation – something to do with handling chemicals. When a government threatens to withhold some benefits, there is rioting in the streets, even though the government may have run out of, well, money. As Margaret Thatcher famously said, “The problem with socialism is that sooner or later you run out of other people’s money.” But the coddled youngsters of the continent do not want to be bothered with that reality, because it is for someone else to worry about. A 30-hour work week, one month vacation, free health care, and a public financed early retirement will do that to people. Remove the frictions of life, and you remove the challenges of life, and the desire to confront those challenges. You become docile, complacent, and witless.

Is America ready for this?  In Europe 46 – 51 million people, age 18-34 LIVE WITH THEIR PARENTS. This is a society that syncs with our American notions of exceptionalism? When dependency replaces ambition, the vacuum is filled with not only more dependency, but a sense of entitlement to being dependent.  We see small rumblings of this in America. In Wisconsin, workers, including teachers with masters and doctoral degrees, took over the statehouse because they were being asked to pay for part of their health insurance. The horror.

The Code of Federal Regulations, the Federal administrative book that tells us how to live our lives, is over 157,000 pages and growing. And it is not only the federal government that is calling the shots. Bill Clinton announced in the 1990s that “the era of big government is over.” And the tooth fairy will leave you a present under your pillow. Small government, right down to the village level, is doing its best to help big government make life “easier.” Mark Steyn, in his new book After America, refers to this phenomenon as a” web of micro-tyrannies which, in their overbearing pettiness, ensnare you at every turn.”

To the extent that we empower government to make our lives blissful, we empower government to control our lives. As Ronald Reagan said it so well: “Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction.” What are your thoughts?

Copyright©2011 by Russell F. Moran

Parts of this article are excerpted from Justice in America: How it Works – How it Fails.

To read more or order your copy click here.


 

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The Need to Help

I watched the endless 9/11 tributes on TV yesterday, including the two-hour special last night – 9/11 10 Years Later, a documentary made by two French brothers who are cinematographers. The linchpin of the entire documentary was the constant scenes of the firefighters, most of whom must have known that they were trudging wearily toward their deaths. The math, which each of these guys must have known, was scary. It takes a man, loaded with equipment, about 10 minutes to climb one story. Even at a quick glance, anybody could come up with a rough estimate that the fires were at or above the 80th floor. That’s 80 floors times 10 minutes per floor or 800 minutes – over 13 hours. This was a climb into a hell of jet fuel, smoke, blood, and debris. They didn’t know that the buildings would collapse, but they did know was that jet fuel was burning furiously, and carrying deadly matter down with it.  Even if they didn’t hope to climb high enough to fight the fire, they climbed as far as they could to meet and help the people on their way down.

They had a NEED to help, not just a sense of duty, or a desire to get a job done. They needed to rescue people; it’s who they were, and it defined their lives.  This human trait of actually feeling a need to help was evident throughout the interviews with the survivors. A major reason they became firefighters was to help people, and an apparently hopeless disaster would not change that.

Our legal system doesn’t force us to help, and it shouldn’t. No law, civil or criminal, can ever replace the natural compulsion to assist people who need help. For an individual, no system of justice can make us do the right thing. You know what you have to do.

Two days after the attacks I was at lunch presiding over a Rotary Club meeting as president. I faced no danger, but I too needed to help, as did my fellow Rotarians. I urged the club to run a blood drive to help the survivors. Although I had been glued to the TV for the prior two days, I somehow didn’t get the message – or didn’t want to hear it -that there were very few survivors. A few of the club members gently pointed out to me that the last thing that was needed was blood. I felt like many a medical provider in the days after 9/11 who had manned clinics and triage centers all over the region to assist the injured. Nobody came – they were dead.

We need to help; it’s in our makeup, and nothing is more frustrating, or sadder, than to feel the need even though it is pointless.  Admiral Chester Nimitz once said: “God grant me the courage not to give up what I think is right, even though I think it is hopeless.” He thought the Battle of Midway might be hopeless. We won the battle.

Tonight my wife is going to a meeting of our church committee help assign parishoners to various charitable outreach tasks, such as Thanksgiving baskets for the needy. She is extremely busy, but she needs to help, and so do I. I told her to just assign me to wherever I can best fit in. Answering the need to help rounds us out as human beings, arguable makes us human beings. When you feel the need to help, don’t resist it.

 

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What Really Happens in the Jury Room? My Uncle the Expert Witness

The sanctity of the jury deliberation room has an almost religious aura in our history.  The jurors receive their instructions or “charge” from the judge, explaining their job and the law.  They are then on their own, with no official watching over them.  If they have a question, they can ask it of the judge, but they are in charge of their own decision on the facts.  No words can say it better than the classic movie Twelve Angry Men, where Henry Fonda’s character persuades the contrary group that they should carefully sift through the evidence and not jump to a conclusion.  The defendant was charged with first degree murder. Henry Fonda’s efforts resulted in acquitting the criminal defendant rather than sentencing him to death.  The film is inspiring, and it reminds one of how the American jury system can work so well.

It also reminds me of how the system can sometimes break down.  A dear late uncle of mine was a delightful guy, but did suffer from being opinionated – in spite of the facts.  Over dinner he told me excitedly about his recent jury duty on a personal injury case. At the time I was the publisher of The New York Jury Verdict Reporter.  The lawsuit involved a woman in a department store walking down the aisle looking at a rack of dresses.  She testified that she tripped over a raised electrical box on the floor, causing her to fall and suffer injuries.  There were no eyewitnesses.  It was her testimony that the box protruded a foot or so into the aisle from the platform holding the dress rack. There was no contrary evidence to dispute her claim of where the box was placed.  The jury found in favor of the department store, determining that there was no negligence on its part.  “From what you told me, it seems to me that her story was pretty believable,” I said.  “Why did you find in favor of the store, especially because nobody disputed her explanation of the facts?”  Uncle, who prided himself on being a handy man and well versed in matters technical, was able to convince his fellow jurors that: “No tradesman could be so dumb as to leave an electrical box in the middle of the floor.  They always recess them in the platform.”  When I explained to uncle that plaintiff’s story was the evidence, and not his theory, he again explained that no tradesman could be so dumb as to leave the box in the middle of the floor.  So uncle and his colleagues made their decision on imaginary facts – not the facts in evidence at the trial – but the facts as conjured up by uncle and his fellow jurors.  Jury deliberations stay in the jury room and only come out when there is objective reason to suspect jury misbehavior.  The judge in that case had nothing to decide: he wasn’t aware that new “evidence” was created in the jury room.  This is also known as jury nullification: the jury comes to a decision despite the evidence. The poor woman who went splat went home empty-handed, because of uncle’s “evidence.” I refused to publish that case in The New York Jury Verdict Reporter.

This article is exerpted from my book Justice in America: How it Works – How it Fails. https://www.createspace.com/3637622

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When Your Loved One is Dying – The Loneliest Time You Will Ever Have

My mother died last year at the age of 95, after a decades long descent into terminal dementia. I was her only nearby relative, although I was constantly in touch with my brother who was overseas with the State Department.  He basically turned over the decision-making to me, the person on the spot.

Mom’s last 2 weeks of life smacked me in the face with something I only read about in the papers, the great debate over the End of Life and health care rationing. Mom’s health began to falter sharply, and she shuttled back and forth from the nursing home to the affiliated hospital. As the named person on her health Care Proxy, I was the one who had to make the calls.

A tough young social worker from the nursing home pulled me aside and said: “Schmuck, it’s time you faced something – your Mom is dying. Are you planning to prevent that?” Only a friend can talk to a friend like that, and we had indeed become friends over a couple of days.  She convinced me that a Final Care Committee (I think that was the name of it) be convened. The committee consisted of the hospital administrator, the head of nursing, Mom’s attending physician, and my tough little social worker friend. There was even a person on the committee called an ombudsman, the guy in charge of serving as the advocate for my mother, the patient.

The discussion at the meeting had one goal: to assist me to decide the course of treatment for Mom; palliative care or regular care. Never once in th meeting did I feel pressure to make a decision one way or the other, but the right choice became clear: Mom should be made to feel as comfortableas possible, be given palliative care, and let nature take its course.

My comfort in having come to a decision didn’t last long. When I visited her after the meeting the first thing I noticed was that she was off telemetry, that scary video monitor that shows pulse, respiration, etc. I raced to the nursing station to point out this glaring error. Trained to deal with strung out next-of-kin, the nurse explained to me, with the kindest diplomacy I ever encountered, that telemetry was irrelevant, because I had decided to “let Mom die.”

Let Mom die. The very phrase filled me with coldness, because I suddenly had a power I never wanted, a power over life and death of my own mother. I could have been a completely self-serving idiot – and believe me, the thought occurred to me – and opted for regular care, meaning that heroic efforts would have been made to keep Mom alive. But the good folks at the hospital, as well as my wife and brother, helped me to make what I now know was the right decision: let Mom die.

My wife was faced with a similar set of circumstances with the lingering death of her 89 year-old mother 3 years ago. Lynda was an only child, so hers was a lonely perch indeed

My decision had nothing to do with economics. Mom was on Medicare and Medicaid, so any financial thoughts would have been academic. Believe me, when your Mom is dying, you do not think about the economic impact of end-of-life care on the economy as a whole. But we should think about it, especally as baby boomers like myself continue to gray and fall prey to a rainbow of ailments. A statistic that never seems to change is that 30% of all Medicare dollars is spent in the last year of life. Medical technology now enables us to add months of life for a person stricken with any number of maladies, including cancer. Months.

The idea of  government imposed health rationing, death panels in the heated rhetoric of the debate, disturbs me. But this article is not intended to engage the great debate, not here anyway. My purpose is to talk to you, who is probably reading this because the issues I’m talking about confront you now.  No, I’m not looking to educate you –  a term we hear often – I’m looking to reach out my hand to you, and share with you my trying experience, and let you know that you’re not alone. Your loved one is just that; so make your decision with love, and you can’t go wrong. Sometimes the best thing to do is to let Mom die.

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