You are always a student, never a master. You have to keep moving forward.
Conrad L. Hall, Cinematographer, American Beauty
An advocate is always a student of the law. The law changes and evolves over time. We must be sensitive to what the law has been in the past, what the law is now and what the law should be in a fair and just society.
Our lifelong study, however, is not limited to a review of case law and legislation. Many of us leave law school naïve to the complexities of human behaviour. We discover in the early years of practice that we must also be students of the human condition and resist the appeal of simplistic narratives when dealing with complicated issues.
We are also continuing students of what it means to be a professional. The practice of law, like baseball, is replete with both written and unwritten rules that govern our conduct. We rely upon the feedback of mentors, friends and adversaries to recognize our blind spots.
It is important to allow for reflection and self-assessment in our practices. Each time we revisit a particular issue we do so with greater understanding and sophistication. We modify and fine-tune our approaches over the years.
An advocate is an eternal student.
(An earlier version of this post was originally published on August 15, 2016, under the heading ‘Criminal Practice Skills’.)