Saturday, September 6, 2008

The Way of the Samurai

According to what one of the elders said, taking an enemy on the battlefield is like a hawk taking a bird. Even though it enters into the midst of a thousand of them, it gives no attention to any bird other than the one that is has first marked.

Hagakure - Yamamoto Tsunetomo

The Japanese Samurai led their lives by the Bushido code, or the "Way of the Warrior." Chosen at birth, their training began in infancy - instructed on how to bow, how to dress, how to address their masters, how to withstand cold without shivering, how to withstand pain without flinching. They were taught to use the sword as an extension of themselves. And they followed a specific etiquette in everything they did - whether in every day life or in war. Justice was supreme under their code. Crooked and unjust actions were beneath them. Honor and courage governed their deeds and words. Honesty and sincerity were valued more than their very lives. For the feudal Samurai, it was more than just a job - it was a way of life. It defined them. They would rather take their own lives (for which they carried a second, smaller sword) than betray themselves - betray the Way of the Samurai. There was honor in the Way, and disgrace outside of it. There was meaning in fighting for their towns and provinces and emptiness in choosing to simply stand by.

Today, we lawyers belong to a similar warrior class. Though we have hung up the swords and silenced the battle cries, there remains in us a warrior spirit. We carry the duty and the privilege to fight for our clients, and we do so according to our own code of ethics -our own Way of the Samurai. It is easy to forget this as we perform the day to day tasks of responding to discovery and preparing motions and writing confirmatory letters. It is easy to forget the privilege and obligation we have to provide our clients the best representation possible. Just as the Samurai defended their feudal lords, we stand in defense of our clients, with the proverbial sword at the ready.

There is great honor in what we do. We can derive pride and solace and meaning in our roles as modern day warriors. What we do is more than just a job or a career - it is a way of life. We cannot allow the drudgeries and the small tasks get in the way. They obscure our calling, the reason we became lawyers in the first place - to fight for our clients, to give them a voice, to defend their rights.

We can learn about ourselves from the warriors who came before us. We can appreciate that our profession, in giving a voice to our clients and ushering them through the civil justice system, is a noble one - where words have replaced swords and our professional code of ethics have replaced the Bushido code. We are modern day warriors, and to consider ourselves something less - ones who simply push paper or bill hours, is to cheapen ourselves, to lose sight of who we are, who we are called to be. Work can become unsatisfying if we focus on the mundane - defining our lives by the little tasks and bothersome obstacles. We are so much more than that.

It is time to recapture our warrior spirit. It is time to don the robe, sheath the sword in its scabbard and prepare for battle. It is time to reclaim the honor and the responsibility and the grace that comes with representing our clients, lending them our voices and standing before them, prepared to bring the sword down in all alacrity. We are the modern day Samurai. And we are prepared to do justice.

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