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The Friendship Balloon

Posted by RickH · June 27th, 2010 · 8 Comments

I’m going to wade into a debate here that anyone with more common sense than I have would avoid like the plague.

Well, sort of.

First I’m going to say something here to those involved in the debate who may read my post: Friends are hard to come by; I have friends on “both sides” and my intent is to keep it that way. On the other hand, good friends are even harder to come by and this post may result in my finding out whether my current circle is bound to yield more, less, or any.

I count the following among my friends:  Scott Greenfield, Norm Pattis, Brian Tannebaum, and “Gideon.” I have high hopes for a number of others I’ve recently met on the Internet, including (but not limited to!) Mirriam Seddiq, Mark Bennett, and several others who recently joined with Norm, Mirriam and me to try out a new project called BCOTUS.

One thing I’ve learned in my 51 years of life — soon to be 52, assuming I can hang in there another month or so — is that I need more than a couple of friends.  I actually need more than a couple.  Sure, I enjoy having lots of friends, too.

I’d enjoy even just one friend.  For what can bring greater happiness to a life than knowing there is someone who will share a thoughtful conversation and, at the end of it, even if the conversation was “unhappy,” will still be glad to call you “friend” when the dust settles.

Yet I need more than one friend because — well, because I appreciate more than just the enjoyment that comes from having someone to value who also values me.  I appreciate that people are different and that the experiences I have and the things that I learn — particularly the ways in which I can become a better and more interesting person — are enhanced by these differences.  One person reminds me that I need to push myself harder and to remember not to just go with the flow; another reminds me that I should occasionally stop and marvel at the flow and how it structures the more mundane tasks of life, so that I can focus on other things.  One friend’s focus causes her to pull my attention to this thing I would not have noticed on my own; another’s focus brings to my attention that thing I and my other friend missed.

No matter what you hear, there’s no such thing as a “self-made man.”  Or woman.  We are all influenced by our interactions with others.  The more frequent and deeper the relationship, the more we are influenced.

And so I am ever on the quest for friends both for the enjoyment it brings to life and for the opportunities it gives me to grow and learn.  I am forever floating trial friendship balloons.

The Internet and my sometimes infrequent but irrefragable drive to write have allowed me to float a number of trial friendship balloons that would not have been possible otherwise.  I discovered the blogosphere, or, as some lawyers prefer, the blawgosphere.  I have read the blogs and blawgs of and started getting to know a number of really cool people on the Interwebs. Thank goodness for tubes!

But while the Interwebs have made possible contacts that were unthinkable just about 15 years ago, they can also be difficult places to find solid friendships.  IRL — “in real life” — people rub up against one another and, when they find themselves disagreeing with one another too much, when they find they too-frequently rub one another the wrong way, they avoid one another.  Balloons, of necessity, have thin skins.  They pop; the friendship ends.  You go your separate ways.  And if some of your friends hang out with your former friend, well, it’s not usually a problem because knowing your feelings, they’ll be unlikely to discuss it around you and you may not even know they still associate.

But Interwebs are stickier.

And I’m deliberately mixing metaphors because it’s my blog and I can do that if I want.

Some people whom I like and respect quite a bit have gotten into a tiff. I guess I can call it that. (For you youngsters, we aren’t talking about image file types here.  And I’m not Canadian, so I didn’t even think about Toronto!)

One group I deeply appreciate has a pet peeve about the Interwebs and lawyers who use them in certain ways.  In particular, they appear to dislike the use of the Interwebs for marketing purposes.  They think that people who use the Interwebs for marketing purposes are hiding a deeper inability, lack of skill, or other weakness which makes them not the best material for becoming good lawyers.  Or perhaps they think that if one focuses on becoming a good lawyer instead of marketing oneself, the clients will follow.  Maybe all the above.

They might be right.  I don’t know.

There is a growing group that thinks the single-mindedness of the first group is — shall we say? — misguided.

The Interwebs being what they are, there have been a few barbs traded here and there over the issue.  (Issues?)  Some balloons appear to have been popped, or are at least in danger of being popped.

Myself, I don’t want to see this.  I value all my friends and potential friends.  The danger from watching the balloons pop and fall from the sky is that it makes me want to come to the rescue.  But people don’t always want you to try to salvage their friendships from the wreckage of a popped balloon.

I can respect that.  Some friendships are just not meant to last.  No matter how sad it makes me to see these things happen, each person has to decide which, how many, what kind of — pick your flavor — balloons they wish to keep aloft.

Another danger comes when Person A sees that my own friendship balloons are still aloft, and one of the passengers is Person B who has fallen from Person A’s balloon.  Sometimes this can make them question where my “loyalties” lie.

Let me interrupt my thinking for just a moment here.  (Thinking, by the way, is exactly what’s happening here.  Like Scott Greenfield, I’m a true believer in the Shakespearean theory of writing.)  Lest anyone become confused, no one has yet questioned my loyalties.  No schoolyard games of “if you like him, you can’t like me” have broken out.  Yet.  I’m simply talking about the dangers that can happen as balloons begin falling from the sky.

And I’m writing this post specifically because, if I can’t stop others from sacrificing their own balloons, I want to keep all of mine intact.  If no one takes anything else away from this post, I am hoping they will at least take away that fact.  Because I’m not a piece of property — nor is my friendship — to be “owned.”  Nor do I have limitations such that I can’t be friendly with multiple people, some of whom may not completely enjoy one another’s company.

Grow up in a family like mine and you get used to differences of opinion, taste, attitude, idiosyncrasy, or what-have-you.

If it happens, in the course of our friendship, that I say I disagree with your point of view, or that I agree with another’s point of view, or — god forbid! — I don’t agree with either of you, this does not mean I’m hoping to pop our balloon.  Being your friend does not mean that I will always agree with you, any more than you will always agree with me.  Being your friend means that I will always value you.  Or maybe I should say, I will always value you.  For there is enough about you aside from whatever views I may find disagreeable that I nevertheless am glad I know you.

So, please.  If you must pop one another’s balloons, let’s keep ours intact.

Categories: Blogs & Blogging · General Comments · Personal Life

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8 responses so far ↓

  • 1 shg // Jun 28, 2010 at 4:18 am

    You raise an interesting conundrum. The problem is both more, and less, than it appears. It’s basic group dynamics. We constitute something of a discrete group in the blogosphere, criminal defense lawyers. We’re used to being the butt of the system, and most want to stick together for the mutual defense of our ideals against the overwhelming tide of those who would prefer we not exist.

    At the same time, the group is comprised of people who have mixed motives, some directed toward our common goals and others more personal, distinct. Of the former, the interest in marketing a practice is a big one.

    You question whether the anti-marketing voices are real or just a variation on a theme, anti-marketing marketing. The answer isn’t that hard to find. If you look at many of the posts, you will realize that if there was an ulterior marketing purpose lurking in the background, the posts would scare potential clients away in droves. A very smart man once suggested that if a potential client was to read my blog, he would never retain me. That very smart man was Norm Pattis. But that was in another life.

    Some of us, who have watched as the blogosphere has developed, have seen the harm that marketing has done to the profession and the blogosphere. Others, whether because they are less astute, self-interested or simply prefer that their digital world not be too stressful, find this troubling. This is their right. No one can force them to engage in a fight. No one can force them to pick a side that makes them uncomfortable, no matter what the reason.

    That does not, however, mean they can impose their sensibilities on the rest of the team. That’s where the team comes apart. They expect loyalty from others, adherence to the orthodoxy of the team. They abhor team members challenging other team members. It’s vaguely reminiscent of the blue wall of silence; we are not allowed to disagree or be disageeable to our brothers.

    As soon as Norm announced that he was going to take a stand and proclaim me persona non grata, I realized that many would pick sides and the criminal defense blogosphere would fracture. This was actually discussed, and we concluded that there was nothing that could be done about it. People are entitled to make their own choices. This was Norm’s choice. Others, who preferred a blogosphere where they had only support and were never challenged, had strong reason to agree with Norm. They acted in their own best interests, a common primary motivator. It’s to be expected.

    The issue isn’t about friendship, but about philosophy. The lawprofs comment on each other’s work all the time, but never, never, say a negative word. They have refined the art of commentary to such a nuanced degree that the lack of exuberant praise means they hated what the other person is saying.

    Criminal defense lawyers aren’t lawprofs. We’re too practical and not as refined. Some of us wish to write in a world where people tell us the truth, whether good or bad, nice or mean. No, we don’t like to be bashed anymore than anyone else, but we prefer a good bashing to a world of lies and deception, where there is only support and no honesty.

    The other view is that there can be honesty, but it should be “civil”. This is a child’s argument, as “civil” is in the eye of the beholder. Post the slightest criticism or challenge, or just something short of exuberent praise, and they whine about ad hominem attacks. They can’t tell the truth, that they want the team to provide the support that furthers their marketing effort, because it would reveal their marketing effort to be a sham. That won’t do.

    So befriend anyone you like. If you write something that irks them, they will delete your existene. As for Bennett, Tannebaum and I, we will never ask you to pick sides. We’ve never asked anyone to pick sides. We’ve never told Peter Pan and the Lost Boys that they must adhere to our view of get thrown out of the club. That’s not our way. That’s not our interest.

    We do what we believe is right to keep this place honest. If it means invoking the wrath of Norm, so be it. That’s the price of honesty compared with the demands of marketing. We’ve decided that it’s worth the anger of the group to put integrity ahead of loyalty. That’s just our choice. We’re not making the choice for anyone else, but we’re not letting the group make the choice for us.

    With all this said, if anybody in the criminal defense group comes under attack, you can bet that we will be there to help. We aren’t disloyal, and we don’t run away from a fight. And we’re still here for anybody who wants to be our friend, whether they agree with us or not.

  • 2 shg // Jun 28, 2010 at 4:19 am

    And what’s with the strikeout? Am I dead?

  • 3 RickH // Jun 28, 2010 at 3:46 pm


  • 4 Norm Pattis // Jul 1, 2010 at 12:46 pm


    I see that I am struck now. Alas.

    SHG makes more of this than it is worth. I simply choose where to invest my energy, limited as it is. I simply lost interest in writers who spend too much time worrying about what others post on line. Scott, Brian and Mark are good lawyers all. But time is short and internecine chest thumping bores me. So I cede any claim to kingship of their hill, and I’ve moved on. It’s no big deal. The world and the net are big places.

  • 5 Max Kennerly // Jul 2, 2010 at 8:20 am

    The “strikeout” is apparently part of the coding of Rick’s blog for visited links.

    I misinterpreted it at first, too.

  • 6 Antonin I. Pribetic // Jul 2, 2010 at 9:50 am

    “I am hurt.
    A plague a’ both your houses! I am sped.
    Is he gone and hath nothing?”
    William Shakespeare, Romeo And Juliet Act 3, scene 1, 90–92

  • 7 RickH // Jul 2, 2010 at 11:11 pm

    The strike-through was, indeed, intended only to indicate that a link which was struck-through had already been visited. Kind of like when you have a list and you cross-out the things you’ve already done.

    However, it was causing too much confusion, so I have removed it. (I hope.)

    Sorry for the confusion.

  • 8 mirriam // Jul 6, 2010 at 8:31 pm

    I like all my balloons too.

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