Denver Bar Association
October 2006
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20/20 Vision
“Visionary” eyewear for lawyers from a young lawyer’s perspective

by Matthew Crouch

Following a quick walk around the firm, I discovered that most of the people I work with use some form of eyewear. You have the people who only wear reading glasses, the contact lens wearers, the "everyday" glasses people and the people who are in denial about their eyes, colloquially known as "squinters." This does not include the "sunglasses to cover the hangover eyes" people. There are a few people who proceed without visual assistance of some nature, however these are limited in number because we all know that reading law books, case summaries, and the fine print on that computer warranty only serve to screw up your eyes.

After another quick walk around the firm, I thought about how many people truly have "vision." It was an interesting moment when I realized that every person I work with has some form of "vision," through his or her own goals, dreams and desires. Their visions are personalized, a custom fit just for them. They are about their family, careers, friends, hobbies, and life in general. As I strolled back to my desk to remove my glasses for a billable hour of computerized legal research, it struck me: what does it take to have 20/20 vision as a lawyer?

As lawyers, our personal time, business time and even our sleep schedules can run into a thick, black, raging river of deadlines, the never-ending client and occasional nightmares of missed court dates. Then there are lawyers who add spouses, significant others, or family into the mix. So how do we manage? How can the average non-superhero attorney handle all of this and still maintain hope for the future? I mulled this question over and was reminded of the title of a report I saw called "2020 Vision," which discussed changes that would occur by the year 2020.

After some research, I concluded that having personal and professional visions can be a form of goal-setting or self-evaluation. Essentially, it boils down to the "where are you at" versus "where are you going" conundrum. Every year at my firm, we are required to submit a self-evaluation with goals for the coming year. For a while, I never understood the point to this exercise. Now, I actually look forward to it (maybe it’s the masochist in me, but it’s true). These evaluations have become a written form of my personal vision, a starting point to thinking about what I truly want to accomplish. Writing these goals gives the vision texture. No longer just idle, wishful thinking, but a "reality" on paper, and a place where I can begin thinking, "How do I make this happen?"

The question becomes: "What do you want in your personal life and professional career?" Grab a sheet of paper and scribble a few dreams of grandeur, some dreams you would like to turn to reality, and thoughts of what you really want to do "if I had the time." Write your visions, not only for tomorrow but for where you think you should be in 2020 and what you will have wanted to accomplish by then. The process of sorting, quantifying and weeding out the goals is necessary, as this will help focus these visions into what can be easily accomplished versus the goals that will require you to take a different path.

I did this and realized that "be a decent lawyer" was a continuing (and with hope, successful) work in progress, but the "be licensed in D.C." was not moving forward yet. To me, these visions were related; however, when I wrote them out I could see that although one relates to the other in my mind, they require different actions to accomplish them.

One of the tricky parts is separating these visions by their importance. Personal goals and career plans can be bound together but care must be taken to not overwhelm one with the other. I prioritized my personal and professional goals, and combined these with my wife’s prioritized personal and professional visions. This helped us understand the other’s hopes and from there we could make concrete plans. We discussed our individual and family goals with vision and hope, and somehow managed to maintain our sanity when we were done.

After finishing writing these visions, I was stumped. How can I make these hopes and dreams take shape? The answer is in the chipping and the tweaking. Nobody is saying that every goal has to be accomplished immediately. Having a grand plan laid out is half the battle but to win the war you may have to win and occasionally lose. I learned the hard way that tunnel vision regarding pursuit of these often would result in ruining the goals by placing too much stress on myself and my family to try to accomplish them. By chipping away at these visions, I am able maintain myself, my relationships and my career and not have my eyes bloodshot from the stress of "must get this all done now."

The tweaking part comes in because life has a wonderful way of forcing changes in plans. Visions and goals change with time, sometimes the goals need to be revised, enhanced or placed aside, sometimes permanently. I recently underwent thumb surgery. This was not in my vision. This was a "life happens" moment. Because of the surgery, I had to delay some of the goals, but was able to bring back some others that had been set aside because of the injury.

Being able to have a good vision, getting it on paper if that’s what’s required and actually doing it can be a lifetime of struggle, but has great rewards for someone with the
patience and endurance to see it through.

Here is the overview:

1. Think about and write down your dreams.
2. Prioritize them.
3. Merge them with others (i.e. family, calendar and reality).
4. Chip away at them.
5. Tweak them for life happenings (adjustments are always good).

Your visions are yours. They can’t be named or accomplished without assistance. The tools laid out above are tools anyone can use. I’ve used them to accomplish some of my own goals and have used them to refine other visions into
attainable goals. I hope these suggestions can do the same for you. Besides, you wouldn’t hit a guy with glasses would you?

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