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Devotion to clients drives the path to victory

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In 2003, I met my teacher Ram Dass, born Richard Alpert. In 1963, Richard Alpert and Timothy Leary got terminated from their Harvard psychology teaching posts for their lawful LSD experiments on people, after then-undergraduate Andrew Weil revealed their experiments in the Harvard Crimson. Four years later, Alpert traveled to India, met his teacher Neem Karoli Baba after at first being totally skeptical of him, and then becoming fully devoted to him, and his urging to love and serve everyone. Ram Dass said some thought Neem Karoli Baba to have been an incarnation of Hanuman, the servant of Rama, who represents devotion and service to others.

Soon after meeting Ram Dass, I finally read his essential Be Here Now, which spreads the message not only of the basic Eastern principle of being in the present at all times, but also underlines the need to love and serve everyone.

Steve Jobs also was influenced very much by Be Here Now, to the point that he ventured to India in 1974 resolved to meet Neem Karoli Baba — who loved apples, whether or not that influenced Jobs’s decision to call his company Apple — who it turned out had already left his body seven months earlier.

Steve Jobs was a very complex man, to say the least. He considered becoming a full-time Zen devotee, but his Zen teacher convinced him to stay in the business world. He knew the path to calmness and caring about others, yet was far from laid back.

Ram Dass is all about service. Jobs was devoted to serving his customers, it is said, even if at temporary odds with corporate stock value.  Ram Dass also inspires me to stick with a singleminded focus on service to my clients.

With my clients, they hire and pay me, and then all that is left is for me to serve them. If I determine at the end of the representation that I did not need to bill them as high a flat fee (not common), I can return part of the fee. If I determine that I did not quote a high enough fee, that is fine. I am there to serve my clients.

In a day an age that some lawyers unabashedly say that their practice is all about making money, all lawyers must understand that when lawyers put clients ahead of money, they will earn more money in the long run than doing the opposite.

I cannot come up with the “ah-ha’s” or “eurekas” that are going to bring me closer to victory for my criminal defense clients if I am not totally devoted to them. My devotion to my clients makes even assembling their files with my staff not drudgery, but another essential step towards winning.

Many years ago while filling my tooth, a dentist underlined that to make money as a dentist, the dentist needs to know how to work quickly and well. Then, as a lampoon of his comment, no sooner did he finish putting in the last of my filling that he patted me on the shoulder and said “See ya”, departed, and left his hygienist to finish up, the novocaine not having eased my distaste for the dentist’s hasty exit. Although the dentist seemed good at his craft, I never returned to him. The energy of his treating me so much as part of his bottom line while he was injecting and drilling me did not give me comfort that he would take good care of me if I started unexpectedly bleeding or coming down with a bad infection after being treated by him.

Clients ultimately know when a lawyer truly cares about and enjoys serving them, or has become burnt out or has never felt a thrill over criminal defense in the first place. Such lawyers might be able to hide their disconnect when first meeting a potential client in their offices, in the quiet away from the battles in the courthouse, but eventually their veneer will show itself.

For me, winning necessitates total focus, devotion, and service to my clients.