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Michael P. Maslanka, assistant professor of law, UNT Dallas College of Law. Michael P. Maslanka, assistant professor of law, UNT Dallas College of Law. Photo: Danny Hurley

At the end of 2019, I read an article in The New York Times, “Eight Ways to Be Kinder to Yourself in 2020,” by Tim Herrera. Hmm, kinder to yourself? Now, there’s a revolutionary idea, especially for lawyers. It reminds me of a favorite lawyer movie, “Defending Your Life,” written by and starring the inestimable Albert Brooks. He’s a yuppie (remember them?) killed in a head-on bus collision while driving home from a car dealership in his new BMW.  He ascends to  “Judgment City,” is appointed a public defender and told by the PD his life will be reviewed by a panel of three judges who will decide if he gets promoted to the next level of existence (if not, he gets tossed back into the maw of the universe). An astonished Brooks asks essentially whether he is going on trial. A nonplussed PD remakes, “first of all we don’t like to call it a trial, and second of all yes.”

The hinge-point of the movie follows with Brooks pleading that he was a nice person while alive and should therefore move on. Exhibit 1: he gave money to the homeless; sure he doesn’t have any receipts but he implores, “You don’t get receipts” for that sort of stuff. A somber PD replies that he knows that Brooks was a nice person but that he wishes there was one person he would have been nicer to. Astonished Brooks asks “who, who?” The PD replies: “yourself.”  So here are five ways for lawyers to be kinder to themselves, while there is still time.

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