Treat Yo Self
When the Rewards Aren’t So Apparent
by Trent Latta
Irecently spent a year prepar- ing a complicated securities case for arbitration. During the tense weeks before the hearing, I
burned through late family-less nights in
preparation — the hearing brief was polished; motions to exclude evidence were
ready; the exhibits were ordered; and
nearly a dozen witnesses were prepped.
But then, the Friday afternoon before opening statements, everything
changed: the case settled. Poof. Fzzzz.
The anticipation I felt toward seeing
my hard work come to fruition was replaced with a smelly lump of disappointment as my written work would be seen
not through the watery eyes of a profoundly moved judge, but making its way
through the oiled teeth of a paper shredder. My effort felt like it was for nothing.
Settlement or other informal compromise is often the best result for a client.
And for that reason, most litigation never
reaches full-scale trial mode. Few lawyers
will ever emerge triumphantly from the
courtroom, verdict in hand, to celebrate
an unequivocal victory with a grateful
client. And many verdicts split the baby.
This is not bad for our clients, and
frankly, it is likely best in most cases: trial
is a relatively costly and inefficient means
of dispute resolution (take the time and
money spent on my unused work product,
for example). But for attorneys who spend
their lives choreographing trial dances,
this type of regular disappointment is not
healthy for their quality of life.
So how do we as attorneys find a way
to celebrate the smaller, less movie-
worthy successes in our (hopefully) long
and (probably largely) monotonous legal
careers? The answer is not found in a law
journal or practice guide, but somewhere
less expected. The answer, as blithely put
by the characters Tom Haverford and
Donna Meagle from NBC’s sitcom Parks
and Recreation, is: “Treat. Yo. Self.”
One day a year, the comedic duo lav-
ish themselves with rewards. During the
20 NWLawyer | JUNE 2013 20 NWLawyer | JUNE 2013
relevant episode (the particular scene
from which is readily available on You-
Tube) the pair explains their ritual with
fluent seesaw exchange:
TOM: Once a year, Donna and
I spend a day treating
ourselves. What do we
treat ourselves to?
None of these items are necessary.
Tom, for example, doesn’t need the velvet
slippers, cashmere socks, velvet pants,
cashmere sweater outfit he models in a
high-end fashion store (Tom: “I’m a cash-
mere velvet candy cane”), but Donna in-
sists that he buy it simply as a gratuitous
reward.“Treat yo self!”
Dan Crystal, a mental health coun-
selor, approves of Tom and Donna’s
tradition. Crystal provides individual
consultation to attorneys as part of the
WSBA’s Lawyers Assistance Program.
He explains that, according to research,
“peak performers” are not defined by
large, lofty goals that are easily reached.
Rather, professionals who do well in their
work “have small goals which they are
constantly rewarding themselves for
completing.” These professionals “have
the consistent sense of fulfillment for
their efforts.” So, Crystal urges that attor-
neys schedule personal “reward time” as
part of their regular work life.
is an attorney
& Cohen, PS,
in Seattle. He
can be reached
com or 206-