RL 74: Jim Dwyer — Finding our True North Where Our Core Values and Career Meet
Release Date: 01/29/2018
In this episode, I am excited to have Jim Dwyer on to talk about how best to align your goals and values with your career experience.
Jim believes that one of the core purposes of our short time here is to align the world around us, so we can live as meaningful a life as possible and help others do the same. Going into his third decade as an attorney, Jim is more committed than ever to the healing power listening can be for our clients. It's a force that is undervalued in the legal world. Jim grew up in a trial lawyer family. He is a personal injury lawyer and the managing partner of his law firm.
- Jim talks about how he started down the path of aligning his core values and intentions with his legal experience and knowledge to create the inspiration for Tipping the Scales.
- How Jim's mindset isn't about making problems (opposing counsel) disappear, but rather about not losing focus on your goals when in these tumultuous scenarios.
- How our fiduciary duties can translate to relationships outside of our firm and legal practice.
For more information on Jim, find him at the following site: http://tipping-the-scales.com/
Sources mentioned: https://www.amazon.com/Just-Mercy-Story-Justice-Redemption/dp/081298496X
For more information, visit: jeenacho.com
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Jim Dwyer: [00:00:03] For me, the goal is how do I keep myself centered so I don't lose myself in a reactionary relationship with someone I don't like.
Intro: [00:00:18] Welcome to The Resilient Lawyer podcast. In this podcast, we have meaningful, in-depth conversations with lawyers, entrepreneurs, and change agents. We offer tools and strategies for creating a more joyful and satisfying life. And now your host, Jeena Cho.
Jeena Cho: [00:00:40] Hello my friends thanks for being with us today. In this episode I am so happy to have Jim Dwyer. Jim believes one of the core purposes of our short time here is to align the world around us so that we can live as meaningfully as possible and help others do the same. He's been practicing law for over three decades and he has committed more than ever to the healing power of listening to our clients. It's a force that is undervalued in the legal world of orderly agree with that. Jim grew up in a child lawyer family. He is a personal injury lawyer and managing partner of his law firm in Portland Oregon. And with that here's Jim. Jim welcome to the resilient lawyer I ask.
Jim Dwyer: [00:01:25] Good morning Gene. As always good to be talking with you.
Jeena Cho: [00:01:29] So let's start by having you give the audience a 30 second introduction to who you are and what you do.
Jim Dwyer: [00:01:36] So in about the year 2000 I've moved up to Portland that's our pricing law. I woke up one morning and felt. Not internally happy about where I was in my life. And yet I looked around and I appeared to myself to have everything that should have made me happy. I still do have a wonderful marriage. I have two incredible children. I have a partner of up to practice law with I live in a house. I love the city I love. And yet inside of me was this lack of contentment. And it was very confusing to me. And what I realized just kind of thinking about it and sitting with why I was not happy with where I was when everything told me I should add is that I really felt like.
[00:02:36] I needed that who I was fundamentally as a person was not being fully integrated into the practice of law. Russia another way of putting the practice of law I had not integrated into me living my best life. I compartmentalize years of practice of law. Here's me as a father. Here's me as a husband and I realized what I needed to do was align all of these critical relationships in my life to helping me. Live my best life which also meant in turn I was helping all those people do the exact same thing for them. And that's where tipping the scales I didn't realize at that time. That's where it was born from.
Jeena Cho: [00:03:26] So you know as I'm listening to you tell your story I think a lot of lawyers would be like I can't seem to figure out a way to or they sort of realize that the way that they've been practicing lies really misaligned with their best selves or their true intentions. And they think this is an adequate law. Did that ever occur to you or anywhere you like this. Figure out how to make this work within the context of being a lawyer.
Jim Dwyer: [00:03:53] Well when I that's a really interesting question because when I moved up from Eugene in 1990. I've been practicing law for nine years and I was really happy and I know. Am I unhappy because of where I'm practicing or how I'm practicing or am I just unhappy being a lawyer. And I mean I didn't know the answer to that question. And they decided you know rather than stopping practicing law why don't I start changing how I'm practicing law and discover. Whether.
[00:04:33] Being a lawyer is consistent with me living my best life or not. And so it became kind of a grand experiment when I came up here interviewed 39 literally 39 attorneys before I found what I believed was the perfect attorney for me to practice law with who I've been with for 20 years now.
Jeena Cho: [00:04:54] Wow. When did you start tipping the scales.
Jim Dwyer: [00:04:59] Tipping the Scales started about five years ago.
Jeena Cho: [00:05:04] Was that part of the interview process or were the interviews sort of for your own personal growth and knowledge.
Jim Dwyer: [00:05:13] Oh the 39 interviews. Oh that was me actually trying to find the perfect place for me to land. I had my wife and I had given up so much to make this move up to Portland that I decided that I did not want to insult the sacrifice that really my wife and I made by just taking any job. If I was going to make this change that I needed to take the time to make sure that I landed in the right place.
Jeena Cho: [00:05:57] Yeah. And what unfolded for you see you when an interviewer interviewed 29 lawyers. Why did you get out of the way. Did you learn or where did you get it.
Jim Dwyer: [00:06:12] She was 39 lawyers and they didn't even know I was interviewing them either. I said my wife helped me come up this ingenious idea of calling lawyers up and saying I'm looking for work from Portland. I'm not. Looking to get hired by you but I just need to understand the Portland market which could take you out to lunch. Yeah because if I told them I was looking for work and they weren't looking for hire somebody well it wasn't going to work.
[00:06:44] But everyone's really pretty willing to help people out. And so I don't have lunch and they didn't realize that I was learning about the market. I was also learning about that because I believe that I was going to be some recently I believe that I was going to be hired not by someone who was looking to hire. I would meet someone and we would so connect that we would make it work we'd find a way to make it work because of how we would connect. Which is exactly what happened. Actually.
Jeena Cho: [00:07:23] So you on your part.
Jim Dwyer: [00:07:26] Right.
Jeena Cho: [00:07:28] Tell me about the lawyer Compass series. What is out about.
Jim Dwyer: [00:07:32] So the lawyers compass was really born from the I D. I've always loved compasses for that it was because I grew up with my grandpa and we went fishing in high mountain lakes and hiking up and down rivers of central Oregon Trout Trout fly fishing. When I was young my Grandpa always had a compass with that in his pocket on his boat dashboard autist car Myhre you know those kind of like floating old school compasses that kind of float in the water and move as the car the boat moves. And I remember asking him Grandpa why do you have compasses everywhere.
[00:08:20] And he said it's because I always want to know where I'm going. And that kind of always stuck with me this affinity for compasses and one thought five 0 7 years ago is in Hawaii and we're in Hawaii. You're on an island. You see compasses everywhere. Yeah. And I was looking at a compass and I saw it and thought flashed in my mind that was what a lawyer is. Compass looked like that would help me stay true to who I am and that's. Really where it was more from him.
Jeena Cho: [00:09:03] You always say you know the type of lawyer that you were meant to be or you know really sort of aligning you pass this law to who you are. Like what does that mean. What does that look like in terms of those on a day to day basis. I was at the wall and looking at you and the way that you're working and let's say you know 10 years ago versus how you practice law. Now what's different.
Jim Dwyer: [00:09:30] Sure. So this the center of a compass the center of the lawyers compass is the true self. And just like with an old school campus not like a digital compass you'd have on your phone an old school campus you can only take a troop bearing a true reading by standing still. At me moving you can't be running. You're not going to get a true reading. So the war the center of the lawyers compass is about understanding our true self and then integrating that meaningfully into the everyday ness of life. So an example of that would be a I consider myself a student of relationships and the relationships are one of the most powerful forces in my life.
[00:10:31] And because of that I want to honor every relationship that I am in to the extent of whatever that relationship is obviously of my relationship with my wife is going to be different and their relationship with my client was going to be different with Eugene than it is with my law partner Dean. And so within each relationship my focus is on how do I bring the greatest meaning and value in this relationship to the person that I am in that relationship with. At that moment in time whether that's a phone call but a client meeting with a client face to face meeting with my law partner or my wife. So because relationships so powerful for me I want to honor them. And that's how I bring that aspect of me out into my everyday life.
Jeena Cho: [00:11:33] I think that's probably easy to do with people that you like and respect them. I think that we tend to come across lots of different personalities and some personalities are very difficult to deal with it. Sure it does. How does that translate when your work. It's a very difficult opposing counsel.
Jim Dwyer: [00:12:00] Well first off there's no way that a thing that I'm going to say is meant to imply that that I believe there's something we can do to dissipate all frustration dealing with a difficult person. I don't think that's actually possible. By acknowledging that I think that's all it's true. I can't make the person go away I pay a wife to or two but that's not going to happen. So for me the goal is how do I keep my self centered.
[00:12:37] So I don't lose my self in a reaction relationship with someone I don't like. And I just have to keep focused on who I am and not be sort of like you're dealing with a difficult person sort of like an electorate Tim Holding a cattle prod right now they're just jabbing at you and it just every time it hits you it just makes you jump and it makes you angry. And that makes you want to. Be that back to them. Well that's just that's just I know where that puts me that puts me in a in a downward spiral cycle that is never going to serve me and never going to serve my client ever. So that simply requires self discipline.
[00:13:34] And control. And not taking things. Personally I think for me that's the biggest lesson all of us to not take things personally. That attorney who's jabbing me with a cattle prod he or she is not jabbing me because I am Jim Dwyer jabbing me because I'm the opposing side and that's just what they do. I'm a fungible good. For them jabbing at so I don't really take it personally because honestly it's about them and not me. And that helps kind of lower that. That had that intensity inside of me because I could see them like Heintze repairing the deposition. When you start answering questions when you're angry or mad that's when you're going to say things you wish you never said and you can't take it back. Right. Yeah. That applies to me as well as my core I have.
Jeena Cho: [00:14:37] But yeah I you think just telling someone like well you know just don't take it personally. It's only like it's entered into me. There is like this tone of I mean it's almost like principle Don't be angry like or get over it.
Jim Dwyer: [00:14:52] Right.
Jeena Cho: [00:14:54] That's say. What does that actually look like you know so you're on the phone with opposing counsel and he has just unreasonably. I mean not agreeing to give me an extension on something that's like that's not even important or I don't know exactly what that dispute is. So when you say like well you know I don't take it personally like there are there like me that use other tools and you know what does that actually. How does that translate in how can someone you know get better at that practice of not taking things so personally.
Jim Dwyer: [00:15:28] Right. So for some reason for me understanding that they're not doing what they are doing because I am Jim Dwyer helps me. Get rid of my anger about a not like oh I'm at peace it's all fine. Say what you want to you can't ruffle my feathers. That's a bunch of B.S. because I'm not happy. I don't like it. So just because I'm feeling that does not mean I'm going to react or act from that place of the discipline of being a professional is to understand the separate yourself out from that. And what I just try to do is because once you get sucked up into it you're wrong in the gutter Yeah. And how do you advocate for your client rolling in the gutter. I I don't know. So I still have frustration inside me that this person is being a teacher to me. I'm just not going to be upping the ante and I'm doing. And that helps me just. Keep me from vaporizing inside really vaporize. Then I say things I wish I hadn't have said.
Jeena Cho: [00:16:47] Yeah.
Jim Dwyer: [00:16:49] OK you don't have to respond. Most of the time responding isn't going to change what they do. It's only going to make you more mad and you lose your bearings and you don't do a good job. It's fight or flight. And as attorneys we're not. Taught to fly we are trained to fight. And so there's kind of a third way inside of that and that is I don't say anything. They are waiting for you to respond. They are. They have just jab you with that cattle prod and now you're supposed to play your part. I don't play that part. And that is very empowering. And that throws them off I believe internally it throws them off because they don't know what to do. I'm going off script and they don't know what to do. There's a lot of power literally in that.
Jeena Cho: [00:17:53] Thing not allowing the other person's behavior to dictate what your response is going to be. Just as you said it this empowers them. And whereas if you kind of give them the reaction that they want then they know they can just continue to hold you and they say well you know it's like oh off at work. So I mean you had a few more times and get some more reaction out of them than the lawyers that sort of engage in these jerks like behaviors you they do it because it works.
Jim Dwyer: [00:18:23] Yes right. That's right. I mean you know they always say whether whatever sport you're playing it's like don't lose your cool when you lose your cool you lose your sense and your ability to function as your at your best. And that is not easy because everything in you as an attorney because you're not taught to fly. Everything is taught you to fight.
Jeena Cho: [00:18:50] Yeah. So true. So you've been practicing law for a little bit. Is that the practice of law teach you about relationships and why they declined.
Jim Dwyer: [00:19:07] Well you know I actually believe that lawyers it is we are actually given a roadmap or a blueprint. To relationships. And it's ironic that the profession that is so often and legitimately maligned by society as to how they treat their clients actually are the holders of a blueprint or a road map to relationships. And it's something that we all know that that was we started learning in law school. That is the three fiduciary duties that we owe our client. Full and frank disclosure. Duty of care. And duty of loyalty.
[00:20:00] And if you think about those are three object ways of understanding relationships and if a relationship fails be it with a client as an attorney or your spouse or a friend or your children. I guarantee you at least to one of those three are going to be at the root of why that relationship failed. So if I'm looking to strengthen a relationship since I value relationships and I look at the relationship with my law partner it's like how do I communicate to him how important our relationship is to me.
[00:20:50] Well full and frank disclosure I let him know how much I value him. I also let him know when what he is doing is bothering me because if I ignore the problems and only acknowledge the positive it's going to either eventually fail. Or going to limp along and never be what it really could've been. And then we have a duty of care. That's our actual action. How am I doing the things that I'm supposed to be doing to show that that relationship is. Important to me my pulling my weight.
[00:21:35] Which is completely different from full and frank disclosure. Yeah. And then finally his loyalty and you know loyalty I think loyalty is one of the most powerful forces in our lives because it allows us to see beyond what our rational brain tells us is true what our eyes tell us is true what we hear in our ears. That allows us to transcend the senses and see more of what is possible to see the best in someone in a difficult situation. It is readily powerful and it's there at our disposal.
Jeena Cho: [00:22:18] Yeah and if we think about it and use it you know that's such a beautiful framing and I think that I ever really thought about our duties as lawyers and how that can translate into just every aspect of our lives and can actually help us be better lawyers but also better spouses and friends and significant others and parents and to for and love.
Jim Dwyer: [00:22:44] There's so much mystery in a relationship. Chemistry is how people get along but it's not just all chemistry. Sort of like being a doctor. There is there is a science of being a doctor and there's the art of being a doctor and the fiduciary duties is the art of relationships and if you if you want to dig into that then you can do that.
Jeena Cho: [00:23:18] Lay your hopes for our profession and society.
Jim Dwyer: [00:23:25] We are trained we are trained technicians to understand the if you're ever a doctor you are trained in the science of medicine. If you are an attorney you are trained in our science of understanding all the technical aspects whether it be a statute or case law about being an attorney. And we have seminars we have magazines we have law school we have we have awards where we award people for there are technical which is not easy technical accomplishment.
[00:24:04] I'm not trying to put the less than that or say it's not important. It is when that's all we are focusing in on. We are missing the soul of law. When my clients come to see me I can look at this and say I'm a persons are well you know they're here because they're injured and my job is to get them money. And I I do my job by getting them the most money I can. That is so not true. It is terrifying. And my clients may not even understand what actual justice is and how it feels. But if I understand the emotional part of justice was being treated fairly and respectfully and being honored as a person is all about I am that conduit. All of us individually are this conduit of bringing the soul of law into the experience of our clients.
[00:25:06] When we have awards and seminars and training and law school that deals with this human relationship dynamic though the art of listening because it is an art it is not easy then we will see. I believe the satisfaction of lawyers going up clients and a gradual change in how society views the law and lawyers.
Jeena Cho: [00:25:36] Now when you say the soul of law and we'll talk about that what does that mean to you.
Jim Dwyer: [00:25:43] The whole form means to me the emotional experience the feeling of law. Laws are meant to protect us to keep us safe to have rules that everyone knows how to operate ideally within and keep within those for an orderly safe society. All of that actually has to do with each of our individual sort of fruition. It's all about about individuals becoming the best that they are able to within the society that and culture that they live within. And as lawyers when we're just focusing on being the best technician and for getting the heart of why someone is coming in as they are they feel injured they feel hurt they feel wronged whether you're a criminal lawyer bankruptcy family law.
[00:26:50] It doesn't make a difference. There is something hurting inside that person that is bringing them to you. And as lawyers were trained to deal with that technical part. Well here's what the rules say. This is what the law says. This is what I can do. And that's great we're doing our job. But there is so much more that we can do and how our clients experience the law through us. I can get a client from the best settlement on the face of the earth and they can leave I'm satisfied on feeling treated fairly respectfully and honored.
Jeena Cho: [00:27:33] Yeah. Yeah I think so often what our clients really want is some kind of closure or an apology. Or you know just the sense that like someone heard them you know. And I know and I often just feel like we miss Ed because we just focus on you know how are we going to divide the pie how are we going to get x number of dollars and insight and give it to my client exactly.
Jim Dwyer: [00:28:02] Exactly. And then they are looking for that. And that's part of what we have to deliver. But just like a doctor with terrible bedside manners who is great accurately what they're doing there's not a feeling of completeness that transaction they go into a restaurant having a best food served by hook hook created by the chef and they have the worst service like. I'm not going back there. The food was awesome. The service was horrible. It was a terrible experience. I didn't like it at all. It's like that's kind of what happens with lawyers. And that's our response we're responsible for that.
Jeena Cho: [00:28:47] Yeah.
Jim Dwyer: [00:28:50] You had referred on Facebook you were talking about the book just mercy. Wow. Wow. Talk about someone who is a master technician in the law and never got the sole.
Jeena Cho: [00:29:10] Right.
Jim Dwyer: [00:29:11] That that that man is an evil power that came from his guilty to soul fully connect with his clients. At the same time being a master technician. Yeah right. That's what makes that's what makes him so powerful. And each one of us can be that in our own right. So I read a book and somehow that got me searching and I found a book The Book of joy which is written by Desmond Tutu and the Dalai Lama. And it's a wonderful read.
[00:29:54] And there's a quote in there that I want to read to is I read this really made me think about you and it said discovering more this is Desmond Tutu saying discovering more joy does not save us from the inevitability of hardship and heartbreak. In fact we may cry more easily but we will laugh more easily to perhaps we are more just alive. Yet as we discover more joy we can face suffering in a way that ennobles rather than him Vitters we have hardship without becoming hard. And we have heartbreak without becoming broken. And that that really hit a very deep place within me and it made me really also think a lot about you and the great work that you do helping lawyers find more satisfaction and happiness and. In their life through being mindful meditation is such a big part of I start every one of my mornings with meditation and some days I meditate really great and other days my head is higher meditation really helpful.
[00:31:29] I can't even stop may break them for 20 minutes. Like I said this is a practice. Yeah. Some days you practice better than you practice other.
Jeena Cho: [00:31:41] And then that happens to me all day that happened to me. Yes. The day I you know I often like I'll do some sort of concentration practice I'll just cannot determine and start back back up at one and not once I get past three and it's I don't.
Jim Dwyer: [00:31:56] Have you know I think people who are just starting out meditation think well if I'm supposed to just be having this perfect blissful experience like I don't know not really. And sometimes you hit that they have. But lots of times you don't. It's still a practice of what you're where you're trying to get to and you just keep plugging away. But yeah.
Jeena Cho: [00:32:22] Oh really, yeah. So I mean I think two lessons you know really go check out just that book hands the first book I read in the last decade and it will change my life. And you know there's this part of the book where he is sitting on the phone with someone and they have they lost all appeals and he is going to be executed very shortly.
Jim Dwyer: [00:32:49] You know the next Yeah. Right over the phone call.
Jeena Cho: [00:32:53] Yeah. And he says you know why don't we want to kill all the broken people. And he goes on to say you know but we're all broken right. And I think just kind of recognizing that like to be human is to recognize our own broken ness and and also in others and to hold that with compassion. And I. Oh my gosh. And you know and the other thing that I don't think I'll ever forget from that book is you know he's part of this person who is about to be executed and of course you know Brian just feels like he has completely failed you know.
[00:33:32] And right in the and the and the person says You know I just want to thank you Brian for believing in me and for fighting for me. And I think that's also part of a lot that we often forget as intercropping take on the other person is not dependent on the outcome.
Jim Dwyer: [00:33:52] That's right. We can give a great outcome and destroy it by how we treated them. That's where we lose kind of the soul of law Brian and not just Mercy was able just to perfectly aligned to be the consummate professional where he's a technician and focused on the soul they are both equally important. And when we combine those two that's that is a force to be reckoned with and each one of us can be that force to be reckoned with and our own rights in our own lives.
Jeena Cho: [00:34:28] Does it mean to be easily that way.
Jim Dwyer: [00:34:35] would say a resilient lawyer means that in the face of all of the challenges and complexities and mastery that that the law demands of us to really be the advocate the technical advocate that our client clients need that we do not lose and forget our humanity. At the same time.
Jeena Cho: [00:35:08] Europol. Jim thank you so much for being with me today. Really appreciate it.
Jim Dwyer: [00:35:14] It's always great talking with you.
Jeena Cho: [00:35:16] You know that and for the veterans that want to learn more about you check out your blog Royds. Most the best way can count Sure.
Jim Dwyer: [00:35:28] So if a little bit of a little complex what's called Tipping the Scales dot com. But there's a hyphen on each side of the so tipping the tipping hyphen. Hyphen scales dot com Krait.
Jeena Cho: [00:35:42] And we will link to that.
Jim Dwyer: [00:35:45] Get them have a blog post on that. I'm posting now for four and a half years.
Jeena Cho: [00:35:51] I love that you do that and just appreciate your thoughtfulness. Yeah I think it's so easy to just kind of go on autopilot and just be assigned and aren't generating more income but you.
Jim Dwyer: [00:36:07] Really just have Yeager's in the very demanding you know much to do. It's like how do you do anything else.
Jeena Cho: [00:36:15] And just appreciate your insights. An unnamed woman thank you for sharing it with the audience. Hey thank you.
Jim Dwyer: [00:36:24] I feel the same way about you. You know that, absolutely.
Closing: [00:36:36] Thanks for joining us on The Resilient Lawyer podcast. If you've enjoyed the show, please tell a friend. It's really the best way to grow the show. To leave us a review on iTunes, search for The Resilient Lawyer and give us your honest feedback. It goes a long way to help with our visibility when you do that, so we really appreciate it. As always, we'd love to hear from you. E-mail us at email@example.com. Thanks and look forward to seeing you next week.