The View From Here

Winning the Day

by Olcott Thompson, OCDLA President

From the November-December 2018 issue of The Oregon Defense Attorney

It’s fall. Football season, especially high school and college, is here. As a number of you know I am a Ducks fan. If you remember back to when Chip Kelly was the UO coach, the team slogan was “Win the Day,” meaning the goal was to win every battle. In the Mark Helfrich era the slogan morphed into “Better than Yesterday,” meaning continue to improve not only daily but task by task. There is also the Nike slogan, “Just Do It”; stop dancing around what needs to be done and do what you need to do.

What does this have to do with practicing law? To be good advocates for our clients, we must continue to improve. Like athletes, we can and do improve by practicing. After all, we, like doctors, practice—it is a process, not a static goal. While winning the day every day is very unlikely, even for elite athletes, we can win many battles by preparing for what we will face.

Part of “Winning the Day” is also taking care of the rest of our lives. The holistic approach to life was important to coach Chip Kelly, too. I learned from an aunt of one of the students who played while he was coach that Chip was not all about football. His impact on the players went far beyond and was more important than just playing football. He made sure his players learned skills they needed for the rest of their lives because those skills are more important than how to play football.
We also need to take care of the rest of our lives, beyond practicing law. An easy place to start is sustenance: we all need to sleep and eat to stay healthy Every article I have ever read says we all need seven to eight or more hours sleep per night. We do. Think how well you function when you get enough sleep. Yes, we can’t always sleep eight hours a night — especially when we are in trial — but we need to work on making sure we get enough sleep, what we need, over time.

Criminal defense requires more than spending just 40 hours a week practicing law. But the time we spend with the law must be balanced with personal endeavors. We also need to “practice” at relationships. Humans are social animals; lawyers are no different. Sharing our lives with others is fun. Listen to your family when they try to draw you away from work. They usually are right, it is time to take a break and do something with them. Get a hobby or two, not a comparison of various beers or whiskeys, and spend time on your hobby. Hobbies are a way to rest your mind by using it in a different way.

We should be proud of what we do. We are quality control for the criminal system. A large part of our job is making sure the government follows its own laws in prosecuting an accused. That is why we file motions, try cases, represent our clients. We are the people who make sure the government does not cheat, that it follows its own rules, that it treats everyone fairly. Like everything, we need to continue to work toward our goals, personal and professional. Whatever you find is the best way to recharge yourself, just do it. Yes, good slogans do mean something and resonate in our lives.

Defense Funding Perspective
The current “Board Perspective” column is written by Andrew Robinson, the Office of Public Defense Services representative on our board. Like all “Board Perspective” entries, this is his opinion. OCDLA’s position regarding defense funding is that defense providers need lots more money. The board has specifically refused to take a position on how money should be divided among providers or how the system should be structured. Andy’s ideas are great. They present a new way to look at the funding issues. What is great about the OCDLA board is its civility; directors look at the same issue in different ways and we all value everyone’s input and thoughts, and we discuss the issues civilly.

Civil discussion is very important throughout all we do. We must be civil with our clients, the district attorney’s offices, judges, their staff. Everyone. Our families and friends, too. We are all too often our client’s last, best chance. Yes, sometimes we need to bite our tongues so much that it really hurts, but that is part of not only being a lawyer but also a member of a civil society. Very rarely does a rant accomplish much except to let off steam and make us momentarily feel better. The downside is often harming the relationship we had with the person we were ranting at.

We all need to find more productive ways to let off steam and reduce stress. I found when I lived in upstate New York that hockey was a great way to get all my aggressions out but there is very little ice in Salem. Physical exercise is usually the best way to relieve stress and it helps keep us healthy. Like everything else, find what works for you and just do it. Win the Day, be Better than Yesterday.