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Women and the LawThe newsletter of the ISBA’s Standing Committee on Women and the Law

January 2007, vol. 12, no. 2

An invitation to all to take a “Darrow Day”

To those of you who missed the ISBA’s “Shine-up Your Shingle” Conference in St. Charles, Illinois in September, I would like to extend my sincere sympathy. You missed it. Keynote speaker, Mike Papantonio, gave each of the attendees not only the gift of his presence and wisdom, but also a gift of one of the four hard bound books he has authored in the last decade. Some of the attendees (and you know who you are) received all four of Mike’s books free. My request is—share!

I chose as my gift Mike’s book Clarence Darrow, The Journeyman, Lessons for the Modern Lawyer (A Seville Square Book, 1997). I will attempt in this brief summary to share with you some of the wonderful insights Mike provided in this truly extraordinary work. In the pages of this book, he compares the lessons to be gleaned from Mr. Darrow’s life with those to be learned from the “Golden Rule” and from the teachings of most of the major world religions (Christianity, Islam, Zen Buddhism, Judaism, etc.)—an extraordinary feat of comparison on Mike’s part, given the fact that Darrow himself was an avowed atheist.

In this book, and in his speech to ISBA practitioners from around the State, Mike cautioned against practitioners becoming trapped by the “thinking like a lawyer” mentality. The “thinking like a lawyer” model is what we have all been convinced, since our first day of law school, is the most appropriate model of thinking for ourselves and our profession. Mike’s work calls to mind the old story that no one on his/her deathbed wishes that he/she spent more time at the office or engaged in his/her given profession. 

While I recommend the entire book (a very easy and enjoyable read) I most especially recommend the idea embedded therein that as lawyers we all need to take a “Darrow Day.” I am personally going to commence advocating the establishment of at least one “Darrow Day” each quarter. What, you may ask, is a “Darrow Day?” It is not delaying or deferring living a full, rewarding, joyful life while we put “more grain in the barn” (page 223, Clarence Darrow, The Journeyman, Lessons for the Modern Lawyer (A Seville Square Book, 1997). Mike points out that:

Darrow did not struggle much with the question of “how much is enough?” In fact, he was quick to brag about the fact the he (Darrow) was not a wealthy lawyer. He always had enough to live comfortably. He was able to travel throughout most of Europe several times. He could afford to “spend” time writing books and lecturing… 

Mike calls all of his fellow attorneys to engage in wu wei, the Taoist principle of “no action,” much like Darrow did when he “allowed himself to learn to loaf a bit” (Id at page 234). In the chapter of his autobiography entitled “Learning to Loaf,” Darrow describes visiting “lands where everyone seemed to enjoy joy” (i.e., Europe).

Darrow is also quoted as saying, “I doubt if I would recommend anything if I thought my advice was to be followed.” Accordingly, nowhere is he quoted as saying we, as lawyers, must take a day for ourselves for quiet time of contemplation outside our offices and away from the law. However, Mike Papantonio makes a very compelling argument, using Darrow’s life and examples from various major religious philosophies, that we each as professionals must take this time so we can move from the place of the Self (Ego) to the Journeywomen, to the Teacher, or to the Sage in order to reap true satisfaction from our chosen profession and leave behind a legacy, like Darrow’s, to be proud of. I recommend this book to you and also recommend that you take the time (starting with one day each quarter) to commence the work of “learning to loaf.” Personally, my first “Darrow Day” is going to be dedicated to having a “coaching” session, seeing friends, going to the spa, and taking in the play based on Darrow’s life “Inherit the Wind.” I invite you all to do the same.


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