Why Leadings?

Not to lead, but to be led            -- by the Holy Spirit.

See Leader, Servant, or Slave? in the section below, "Walking the Walk".

Jack in Denali National Park, 2012.

God's Wrath

Why was Sodom destroyed? Ezekiel tells us in chapter 16, verse 49: "This was the sin of your sister, Sodom: Pride, full-ness of bread, and abundance of idleness. Neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy."

That's also why Jerusalem was destroyed.

And now, with greed as our national virtue, what hope is there for the United States of America? We are afflicted by imperialistic pride, obesity, and entertainment addiction, and we are all called to do our part to "strengthen the hand of the poor and needy".

"Strengthen the hand" is the King James wording. Modern translations say "help the poor and needy." And there's a world of difference between the two. Helping the poor = as little as throwing some cash in the Salvation Army bucket at Christmas time. That's charity. It's doing for, not doing with.

My Grandmother was right about charity. On a below-zero day, she went out on the back porch with a skillet to throw hot grease on the back-yard snow. She shivered as she re-entered the kitchen and said, "Wooooh, colder than charity."

Strengthening the hand is much different. We get personally involved with another person who needs help, and we work with her or him to get the needed help. That's risky. You're vulnerable. It takes prayer, time and patience. You need knowledge and wisdom from the LORD. There are great rewards, however. You get a brother or sister.

Strengthening the hand is great work for our churches -- which we ignore far more often than we perform. Why? Because we're afflicted with the Ameri-can curse of individualism. Christians are to be a tribe -- a tribe that takes care of each other. In Galatians 6:16, Paul calls us "the Israel of God" -- the new 13th tribe.

Jesus said, "The poor you shall always have with you." He didn't mean that as a curse -- the notion that the poor are an inevi-table nuisance and expense, to be hidden in the slums. Rather, He was saying, "You shall always be among the poor."

When you strengthen hands, you fulfill Deuteronomy 15:4-5: "However, there need be no poor people among you, for in the land the LORD your God is giving you to possess as your inheritance, he will richly bless you, if only you fully obey the LORD your God . . ." It's a glorious responsibility and promise.

And how do prosperous Americans fulfill that promise? Generally, by making sure they have no contact with people who are poor -- and we have been that way from our beginnings in the 17th century. Early villages in Massachusetts solved the problem by out-lawing poor people. Today, we deal with the same problem by confining the poor in urban reservations, our slums.

As the Supreme Court Bailiff says at the beginning of each session, "God save the United States of America..." 



Law school is strange terrain. 

  • You study a subject for a year, and then they give you an aptitude test in it. 
  • It's like getting in the NBA or the NFL – everyone's a brilliant player – and extremely competitive.
  • After a liberal arts education, law school is culture shock because it's a trade school.  Everyone is career-oriented.  There's fun along the way, but there's dedication I didn’t find in college.
  • Law school is not book learning as much as it’s education by trauma.  (Or it was still traumatic in the 1960’s.  I hear that professors are now kind to students.  If so, that’s too bad.  In court, you can’t rely on the judge or opposing counsel to be kind.)
  • Your grades don't depend on how hard you study as much as how your brain is wired.
  • As Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. said, "Law is chaos with an index."
  • Law school teaches you to think like a lawyer, so one way to win at law school is to learn how to think like a lawyer before you arrive.

If I were going to law school again, here are ten things I’d do differently –

1.  I’d choose a better law school than Harvard

If that sounds heretical, bear with me.  In 1958, when I was at the Army Language School in Monterey, I telephoned the Stanford Law School Dean.  We made an appointment for 7:30 on a Friday evening – so I could drive to Palo Alto after Friday classes.

I’m now amazed that I had the gall to call the Dean for an appointment, and I’m even more amazed that he was willing to meet me.  He had an admissions director to deal with nuisances like me.

The Dean had commanding personality and intellect.  His most significant counsel that evening was to say that the rankings of law schools were mostly meaningless. “The best law schools in the country are the top 15 law reviews.”  [He’d now probably say 30.] “You’re better off being on The Rocky Mountain Law Review in Boulder than you are being a C student at Harvard.”

Comment:  One of life’s great gifts is recognizing excellent advice – and following it.

So, what did I do?  I became a C+ student at Harvard Law.

2.  I’d work in a law firm before going to law school.

W. Barton Leach, our property law professor, told us in our first class, “The best way to learn law is to read law in a law firm, the way John Adams did.  But that can take six to eight years, and we can’t spare that much time any more, so we give you a three-year cram course to get you ready to become lawyers.” 

[Note:  In case you’re unaware, a law school JD does not make you a lawyer.  In law school, you’re trained in national law.  But to become a lawyer, you have to join a State bar, and to do that you have to pass the State bar exam.  So, to do that – with your JD in your hip pocket – you take a month-long cram course in the law of the State in which you intend to practice.

[I took the DC cram course.  My classmate and friend, Pete Paradis, took the Massachusetts Bar Exam and then came to Washington.  I coached him for a weekend.  We both took the DC exam.  We both passed it on the first try.]

Of course, for me, this claim of working for a law firm was only theoretical. I finished college in ’56. I was separated from the Army in ’60.  I was already 26.  I didn’t have time to work in a law firm.

3.  I’d get a mentor.

After college, I enlisted in the Army.  During the two weeks of pre-basic, I discovered that one of the men had re-upped.  He’d been through all this before.  I struck up a friendship with him and stuck close.  He taught me basic Army skills, such as, “Always volunteer.  You’re going to get some job anyway, so pick your job.”

When I got to law school, I didn’t get a third-year student for a guide.  What made me think that law school was going to be simpler than the Army?

Note that law school is different than college.  In college, I was assigned a guidance counselor, who was useless.  My real mentor was Arthur Jenkins, chairman of the English Department, who later became dean of the faculty.

That won’t happen in law school.  The faculty is not there to help you develop as a person.  They don’t have time for that.  Their office hours are strictly limited and are solely for discussing law.  An example will show why.  A friend of mine took a third-year international law course from Roger Fisher.  My friend had technical questions about his third-year paper and needed ten minutes of the professor’s time.  He was in the professor’s office for an hour and twenty minutes because Professor Fisher was interrupted by several phone calls from the State Department.

Faculty members will meet with you briefly after class for legal questions.  After that, you have to get help from classmates, and they’re capable of being wrong, wrong, wrong.  A few of your classmates will be 19 (do the math).  They’re analytic geniuses, but may not be able to find the rest room.  Most classmates have known little but academia, and few have wisdom to counsel you on significant life problems.

If you can’t get a third-year mentor through natural processes, hire one.  Or, if you have worked in a law firm, ask an associate, a recent grad of your law school, to be your mentor.  If necessary, you can buy him or her lunch every week.  Bring your questions, problems, concerns, fears, anxieties – in writing – for organized discussion.

4.  I’d join a study group – or form one.

Dean Erwin Griswold was my professor for our second-year Federal Income Tax class.  One day -- speaking to us as Dean rather than Professor -- the Griz said, “Most of you study much too long and too hard, but you don’t study smart.”

Can you imagine any college president in the Nation who would say that to undergraduates?

But the Griz was right.  Studying smart is what matters, and you can do that best in a study group where you hone each other’s minds.  From the law library, the group should get questions from former final exams and battle through them together.  In Torts, for example, your assignment is not to learn Tort law; your assignment is to learn how to take the Torts exam.  And your grade depends on your final exam.

I brought excellent skills with me to law school.  I learned to brief cases well, and I took excellent class notes.  But endless reading and paperwork can become ends in themselves – a dead end.  Get in a study group.

I knew one man who was the least able member of his study group.  So, in his first year, he assumed he was not doing so well.  However, he finished the year among the top 25 in his class – which qualified him for the Law Review.  All five members of his study group made the Law Review.

5.  I’d use canned briefs. 

I’ve seen the law library at the University of Washington School of Law.  Most students are staring at their computer screens.  I don’t have any idea how they’re studying law.  So, I’m going to discuss archaic technology in the hope that it has current application.

In law school, I briefed all my cases, for all three years.  A waste of time and energy.  I should have briefed my cases for the first three months – to develop the skill.  After that I should have bought canned briefs, (i.e. written summaries of each case in the course.)  The canned briefs, like any other ponies, are seldom good literary efforts, but they do contain the basic data.  So, read the case; read the canned brief; edit the canned brief.  It’s the quickest way to prepare for class.  Moral:  Don’t waste time with busywork.

6.  I’d have a different mental set for class.

Before starting each course, I’d research the professor in the law library.  For example, my Torts Professor, Milton Katz was a rather small man.  Some of his comments seemed obvious.  I respected him, but did not particularly esteem him.

With ten minutes research in any library , I would have learned that –

  • Milton Katz had been the #2 man to Paul Hoffman in the Marshall Plan after World War II.
  • Katz replaced W. Averell Harriman as Ambassador and Special U.S. Representative in Europe.
  • When Paul Hoffman left the Economic Cooperation Administration to head the Ford Foundation, Katz went with him.
  • Later, Katz left the Ford Foundation and took $10 million with him to build the International Law School at Harvard Law.

So, when I took Torts, my professor was the Dean of the International Law School.  Why was he teaching Torts?  Later, I heard him say, “I do it for fun.  The first-year students are still excited.  The third year and graduate students tend to be dull.”

Believe me, if I had begun Torts knowing Milton Katz’ biography, I would have paid full attention even to his offhand remarks.  Before you begin any class, get a brief bio of the prof.  With the internet, it's easy. 

I’d have an attitude change too.  I wouldn’t go to class anxious; I’d go aggressive.

Here’s the dumb conventional law school student wisdom regarding the faculty, “The first year they scare you to death; the second year, they work you to death; the third year they bore you to death.”  Conventional wisdom can do a lot of harm if you believe it.

With the Socratic case method, law school classes are simulated appellate court hearings, with the professor having the role of an appellate judge.  Instead of wending fearfully to class, I should have gone into each class as a lawyer representing a client – volunteering perhaps once every two weeks.  But in every class, I should have been ready to respond to the professor as judge and persuade the prof to my opinion.

How well would that work?  The prof is a super-pro, perhaps the leading thinker in the Nation regarding the course subject.  Often the prof will roast you on a verbal skewer.  But, two good results happen:  The prof will respect you as a fighter, and you will never forget what the prof taught you that day. 

Several of your profs will have genius IQ’s, and they can give a classroom of 120 students the intimacy of a 12-person seminar.  First example:  On the first day of Torts class, I walked in and sat down.  Professor Katz scanned the classroom.  He addressed six of us by name and told us we were not sitting in our assigned seats.

How’d he do that?  There was a first year booklet which contained our names, faces, and undergraduate schools.  His secretary, destroying two booklets, prepared a paste-up seating chart.  Before the first class, Professor Katz had memorized it.  There was nowhere to hide.

Second example:  On a lazy spring morning in April, a professor called on me and said, “Mr. Towe, in late October, you stated the following:”  (and he rattled off some statement I didn’t remember.)  “In the light of today’s cases, do you still maintain that opinion?”

One of law school’s best teachings is learning to rely on your mental agility.  I don’t remember how I responded, but what I hope I did was to stand and say boldly “Yes sir, I do.” Or “No sir, I do not.”  (Either one works; either one will get you skewered, so the choice is of little consequence.)  What counts is then, on your feet, marshalling your mental resources and making an extemporaneous, reasoned defense of your position.  It’s wonderful to gain both the confidence and skill to do it.

7.  I’d have utilized one or two professors as editors and literary agents.

My best learning at law school came too late to do any good.  I was showing a friend Eero Saarinen’s auditorium at MIT.  We struck up a conversation with an MIT undergrad who was about to graduate. While at MIT, he had published three articles in professional journals.  He was currently considering offers from several firms, and he declared, “I’ve decided not to accept less than $11,500.”

Today, in a major corporation, $11,500 is the annual pay of a part-time janitor.  But this was 1963, and a graduating member of the Harvard Law Review could expect a salary of $7,500 with a major firm.  When I last checked, Law Review alumni are getting $125,000 for starters.

With a shock of recognition, I realized that a great purpose of college and graduate school is not to gain a body of knowledge, but to become a published writer.  That opens many doors.

I had been writing papers for professors to grade.  With some additional effort – and with more self-confidence than I had then – I could have written to publish.  That way, you don’t worry about the grades, and your professor becomes your editor.  Also, you can utilize him or her as your agent in getting the article placed with a suitable publication.

In college, I wrote a philosophical dialog between a follower of Nietzsche and a follower of Kierkegaard. With a little extra work, it could have been published.  Also in the dramatic vein, in law school, I wrote a Calvinist rant to a Boston patriot in 1776 – not for a law course, but for a cross-registration Harvard Divinity School course on John Calvin’s Social Ethics.  It’s a good critique of the failure of the American revolution to meet Calvin’s high standards for rebellion against established authority.  It’s still publishable, and when I relocate it, I’ll submit it.

8.  I’d have utilized my summers.

The most common use for law school summers is clerking in a law firm.  That can be excellent experience.  It can and should lead to a career position.

However, true to my unconventional lifestyle, I was a yacht-club sailing instructor for both law school summers.  Evenings I had lots of spare time, and in the summer of ’62 at Biddeford Pool, Maine, I utilized my evenings in liturgical scholarship on behalf of my Lutheran congregation in Cambridge, MA.

Of course, I should have been writing a law article for publication, but I was too naïve to know about that. This was long before personal computers, so I had little access to law books, but my isolation was an advantage.  Some academicians will tell you that you should have a thorough knowledge of a field before you begin writing.  Nonsense.  For your first draft, damn the citations.  Get your ideas on paper.  As you do research, you’ll find that your concepts need revision.  That’s good.  Upgrade them and provide scholarly support.

Of course, you need some knowledge of a field before you have an opinion worth sharing.  Let’s say you have a big idea -- and it really helps if you care passionately about the idea.  Your article will be worth reading only if your ideas are original and you write with verve. 

In law school, we were required to do a third-year paper.  This is preeminently the time to write a law review article.  Find a topic that matters; state your opinion; stake your reputation; go for it.

Ironically, at the Biddeford Pool Yacht Club, I was invited to apply to a major New York law firm.  A senior partner watched me dock the club launch on a dark and stormy night.  Walking to the clubhouse, he encouraged me to apply with his firm.  He didn’t ask me about my grades or my interests.  I was insulted and never followed up.  In our 20’s, our psyches are fragile.  Since then, I’ve realized that a cool head and a steady hand in a storm can be better qualifications for an attorney that law school grades.

9.  If history had been with me, I’d probably still be a lawyer.

I graduated from Harvard Law in ’63.  At that point, all I could look forward to in a legal career was estate planning, corporate law, corporate reorganization and taxation, real estate planning (i.e. assembling malls), and other such capitalistic busyness.  They didn’t interest me.  So, I went to work for 7½ years with General Electric in employee relations, where my labor law education was occasionally relevant.

By 1965, the full impact of the Great Society hit the Nation, and poverty law was born.  I would have relished poverty law.  Of course, the opportunity to represent poor people had always been there.  In 1963, Pastor Richard John Neuhaus invited me to hang out my shingle in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn, but at the time, I didn’t have the guts to do it.

In the 20th century, I was an admirer of Morris Dees of the Southern Poverty Law Center, because he had the guts to utilize law as a weapon on behalf of the oppressed.

10.  If I were 25 again, I would NOT go to law school.  Nor would I get an MBA or a PhD.   

Why?  Because those are degrees for people who are brilliant within the box.  I’m a creative person who works outside the box.  I wish I’d been able to say that to myself at 26.

There I was, 26 years-old, with a Dartmouth cum laude and three years in the Army as a Russian linguist (for which I had mediocre aptitude and a tin ear.)  What should I have done?  I should have done what I liked to do, done what interested me, and lived out the reality that God put at the core of my being.  Two possibilities:

A.  Go into theater and/or movies.  Learn the craft.  Write and direct my own work.  And/or–

B.  Go into third-world economic development; foster productivity with limited capital.

With either or both choices, my goal would be to do all for the glory of God.

These are not theoretical alternatives.  They are precisely the alternatives that face me today at 79.  I wish I’d had the wisdom – and self-confidence -- to face those alternatives 50 years ago.

Had I gone into either field, I’d have picked up some additional education, but be warned – education is only a door-opener; it’s not an end in itself.  Anyone over 40 who is doing good work is mostly self-educated.

Discover God’s call for you. Life is a game, so seek the Holy Spirit's guidance in choosing a game you can win.


Purpose of this blog is to compile books for my grandchildren to read in 25 years.

Copyright © 2013 by Jack Towe


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