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Similarities and Differences Reflecting on 25 Years of Law
That old saying, “The more things change, the more they stay the same,” really rings true for me. Here we are coming up on the end of another decade and my 25th year as a lawyer, and I can’t help but reflect on vast differences and surprising similarities to the past. In some ways, 1995 may as well have been another world. In others, it feels like the same old story. The first thing that comes to mind is the volume of work I do now. When I was a young lawyer just starting out, every step in the process was painstaking. What now takes me about a day of work used to be a weeklong ordeal. Because I took that time while I was first starting out, I am so efficient today. Learning how to suss out the important information about a case quickly and coming to know the character of individual courts, judges, and prosecutors — these factors just can’t be taught in law school; they have to be learned over years of experience. While I can get my work done much faster than I could back in the ‘90s, the volume has only increased. The thing about finishing your work quickly is that it leaves plenty of room for more work! Don’t get me wrong; I’m happy to be able to help more people resolve their legal issues. But it’s funny to look back and realize that, despite all that learning, I’m under about the same amount of stress as I was two decades ago. I blame email. Not to sound like a curmudgeon, but I’m sure anyone who lived through the gradual introduction of the internet to the workplace can relate. Early on, many of us were led to believe that computers were going to let us
get our work done so fast that everyone would have leisure time. Well, much like my caseload, that didn’t really happen. More speed just translated into more work. What did end up shifting was the ways we communicate. After I was sworn in as a lawyer, much of my time was spent writing letters. I’d get questions from clients and other attorneys, and we’d correspond by mail. I know— it’s hard to imagine today. In fact, sometimes a question would resolve itself before my answer even arrived. Email, and then social media after it, utterly changed this correspondence. It became faster and — you guessed it — far more frequent. As anyone on social media can attest, we are definitely more prone to anger and arguments today. A world of information at
your fingertips and the ability to immediately comment on someone else’s opinion makes for a fiery combination. Thankfully, in the law at least, common sense still prevails in the end. Ironically, it just takes longer than when we simply took the time to write letters to one another. Looking back over my career, I can say that, despite some titanic changes in the world at large, dedication still pays off. Sure, I may still feel swamped at times, but I also help more people than I ever would have imagined 25 years ago. After taking hundreds of cases, it can be easy to lose sight of that. So, if you’re looking back on your life as 2019 comes to a close, remember to see the big picture. Focus less on the similarities and more on the differences you are making for others.
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-Paul J. Tafel ski
www.tafelskilaw.com • www.michigandefenselaw.com | 1
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