By: Susan Borecki*
“I feel, therefore I exist.”
Years ago, I took a sabbatical from my legal practice and enrolled as a student at the Ayurvedic Institute. Ayurveda is the science of life based on the ancient Vedas. Yoga is the most well-known Vedic discipline in the West. Another that is becoming more widely known is Ayurveda. Ayurveda is the “Mother of all Healing.” Health and healing according to Ayurveda begin with Agni.
Agni is the Sanskrit word for fire. In my last article I discussed Agni and digestion. Today we will explore the role that Agni plays in the legal profession.
Agni refers to the digestive fire, the fire of intelligence, and the fire governing all transformative processes. Like fire, Agni is hot, light, sharp, and dry. Agni governs the highly organized process of creating and blending acid, bile, and enzymes to transform food into usable energy. Maintaining a balanced Agni translates into better digestion, elimination, and immune function.
Agni is also the vehicle by which food becomes consciousness. Agni governs the processing and assimilation of information. All this, through the miracle of fire.
We speak of something to consider, and legal professionals are voracious consumers. We take in myriad bits of a vast variety of information and evaluate them considering all the related circumstances. We craft them into legal principles, arguments, and conclusions.
Just as a balanced Agni results in the smooth digestion of food, so a balanced Agni gives optimal job performance. There are a few key qualities that make for an effective and efficient legal professional. All of them require effective and efficient Agni.
Ability to Listen
Meeting with clients requires the ability to welcome people into your environment and help them feel comfortable and appreciated. We do this through outwardly communicating that we are listening. Asking the right questions and reflecting to the client what you have heard is a dance, just as a flame will do. Your good Agni communicates warmth and your understanding of the situation. Your good Agni processes the client’s words and nonverbal cues and allows you to reassemble them into a legally meaningful construct. And, because you have intelligently evaluated your client, you are able to restate the issues in a way that the client is able to understand.
If your Agni is balanced, you will be calm and assess the matters discussed with clarity and control. This in turn stimulates the client’s confidence and trust. If your Agni is too strong, you might appear irritated or angry and judgmental. If it is too low, you could appear distracted or uninterested. You might not accurately assess risks and the chance of success. The plan of action you create may prove ineffective.
Compassion and Empathy
Compassion is the ability to feel sympathy for the client who needs help. Empathy allows you to put yourself in the client’s shoes and feel what they feel. Your internal flame naturally seeks out that of the client. If the client’s Agni is low, you sense it, whether consciously or not. If your Agni is strong, it will reach out to bolster the client’s. If the client’s Agni is too high, one’s own Agni remains cool, to calm the blaze. Your compassionate fire quietly assesses the client and decides if and how you can help. As we know, just listening and being present is often enough.
Extend to others the same compassion and empathy you have for your clients. You cannot hope to be successful if you are not able to appreciate the clerks, your opponent, or the judge. Your subtle flame is always vigilant to the signals given by those who play a role in the outcome of your case.
An effective legal professional has the appropriate skills and the confidence to use them. An assertive lawyer is game for what may come. One’s enthusiasm—powered by a healthy Agni–is steady, within a manageable range. Out-of-control Agni will make one overly aggressive. One can misread a situation or over-worry an insignificant or unintended slight. This in turn will make one react with anger, failing to maintain a steady, measured course.
Unfettered aggression can, as they say, “burn bridges.” In the middle of a conference or a hearing, one can misstep if one overly identifies with one’s points. Zealous representation can be enthusiastic but is ineffective when fanatical and overheated. A well-tempered Agni gives the intelligence to act rather than react. Sometimes, with the right attitude, just showing up really is enough.
Analytic Skills and Perspective
No one disputes that being able to assess a situation and apply the law appropriately is key for legal professionals. Setting out a problem with an argument supported by law in outline form is our bread and butter. What may not be so apparent is how much analysis is the right amount. An overactive Agni could make one dive too deep in the weeds or blind to key factors.
An insufficient Agni may leave one sputtering and at a loss when it is time to drive home the winning argument, whether on paper or orally. The measured, consistent Agni will make all the important points, to the necessary degree, in both the filings and at the hearing.
Creativity and Timing
There is a general cadence of cases in each area of the law. Within the normal range there is some ebb and flow in which you make a case uniquely yours. Weaving a fresh approach around black letter law is the mark of a consummate professional.
Understanding how and when to shine new light on an old situation is possible for one with the fire of discernment. Inroads are made by insight coupled with the sincere desire to express a new, better way of seeing things.
Dedication and Commitment
Of course, the ability to keep the flame of attention burning throughout the whole life of a case is essential. But staying motivated and “stoked” can be a challenge. Confronted with obstacles and delays, a sufficient reservoir of patience can be hard to find. In such situations, knowing that for everything there is a beginning and an end, is the currency of a professional. We talk about putting things off on the back burner or letting things simmer, for example.
As a criminal defense attorney, I have found that dedication means maintaining the same level of attention and appetite for a case from presentment to the notice of appeal. After the codefendant has pled out, when it is “just us” at the defense table, then me delivering my closing argument (completely convinced of an acquittal), and me enjoying every minute of the 2.67 days the jury is out, and years later remembering my cross of the government’s DNA lab technician, the flame of attention still burns strong.
Many of us start the day with caffeine in the form of a large, lovely mug of coffee or tea. To enkindle your Agni, first drink a glass of filtered water. Serve it at room temperature because chilled and iced drinks tend to extinguish Agni. Drink it thoughtfully, as an acknowledgement of your Agni, which will guide you through your day.
- The author is a frequent contributor about wellness from the Asian historical perspective. The article should not be construed as medical advice on the subject.