I notice these days that the pupils, interns and fresh lawyers don’t hang out with seniors, even when they have the opportunity to. Or even if they do, they don’t stay long. Excusing themselves politely on the account of work or something or other.
I am sure the mumbled ramblings of those of my vintage and beyond when we get together are dismissed as old uncle talk, and, therefore, not worth sitting around for. I can understand.
When I was a lawyer growing up, I relished the opportunity to sit with my seniors. The wrinklier, the better. I drew great pleasure listening to their tales of courtroom adventures, improbable close calls, against-all-odds cases, and magnificent should-have-won-ems.
But only for the first time.
More importantly, I appreciated the treasures buried in their tales: their distillation of an area of law, exposition of a legal issue, unique approach to the law and insights into legal practice reaped from battle-scarred legal experiences. There is much to be learned from our seniors’ casual, seemingly meandering and circular conversations or discussions.
Of course, the amount of treasures contained varies from conversation to conversation. Much also depends on the people in the conversation. To expect a motherlode each time is to harbour unreasonable expectations. It’s closer to panning for gold. Even if the nuggets are small, it is still valuable.
Those buried treasures are there to unearth. We can only unearth them by keeping quiet and listening. Really listen, and keep reflecting as we follow what they are talking about.
We can only listen. There will be no sign, cue or mobile phone application to alert us when a valuable segment of the conversation is going to happen. They are not going to stop mid-conversation, seize your attention and tell you, ‘Excuse me, you might want to pay attention to what we are about to discuss because it’s going to be useful for you.’
It is entirely up to us to discover.
Yes, we can ask them directly. But that is a treasure of a different nature. That is of the teacher-student, senior-junior variety.
The treasure I am interested in is the one that comes from conversations between senior peers ranging in a diversity of areas in which both are equally conversant, speaking their minds unrestrained. What is dared to be said and thought in the igloo of privacy is exhilarating and far more insightful.
I call them treasures because these are the knowledge that will never be captured between pages. They are incapable of being compressed into a meme or a gif. We won’t find it streamed or repeated on social media or media sites. It can’t be recorded for later viewing.
These insights wrought from deep experience and understanding can only be passed on by engaging in conversation or witnessing its expression. We have to be there. We have to be there to identify, unearth, and make sense of it. No one else can do it for us.
Yes, I concede there are some conversations that are truly boring and of no value. But that is the price we pay to sit through the ones worth our time.
Sometimes, and with some things, especially important, meaningful ones, there is no cheap, convenient, and efficient way to go about it.
Not everything can nor should be reduced to those three commercial qualities.