August 24, 2019

Archives for September 24, 2015

The Culture of Law (Part 7): Sweating the Small Stuff

rhodesOur Future of Law series earlier this year looked at internal and external trends creating pressure for change in the legal profession. But really… the law has been around for millennia; changes move through it glacially. Can’t we just let things work themselves out in due time?

Sure, of course. Culture is formed in the brain; it evolves there as well. Cultural evolution brings change slowly, eventually, and inevitably. There’s just one problem: evolution of any kind doesn’t work from a blueprint and doesn’t sweat the small stuff, so you never know where it’s going.

The evolved architecture of the brain is haphazard and disjointed, and incorporates multiple systems, each of which has a mind of its own (so to speak). Evolution doesn’t design things and it doesn’t build systems— it settles on systems that, historically, conveyed a survival benefit (and if a better way comes along, it will adopt that). There is no overarching grand planner engineering the systems so that they work harmoniously together. The brain is more like a big, old house with piecemeal renovations done on every floor, and less like new construction.

The Organized Mind, by Daniel J. Levitin, Ph.D., Professor of Psychology and Behavioral Neuroscience, McGill University

As a result, cultural evolution’s adaptive walk might take us places contrary to our own best interests:

Cultural evolution can yield significant change in behavior in the absence of biological evolution… Such changes need not be biologically adaptive; as a result, fads, fashions, or random variation, attitudes and behaviors may spread through a population that either have no effect on survival or that actually reduce the fitness of the members of a population.

From Evolution of Mind, Brain, and Culture, introduction by Gary Hatfield, Dept of Philosophy, University of Pennsylvania

(Hmmm, did someone just say “billable hour”? Just couldn’t resist….)

If we’d prefer something other than an unpredictable evolutionary walk to potential self-destruction, we need to get proactive. Again from Dr. Levitin:

A key to understanding the organized mind is to recognize that on its own, it doesn’t organize things the way you might want it to. It comes preconfigured, and although it has enormous flexibility , it is built on a system that evolved over hundreds of thousands of years to deal with different kinds and different amounts of information that we have today.

It’s helpful to understand that our modes of thinking and decision-making evolved over the tens of thousands of years that humans lived as hunter-gatherers. Our genes haven’t fully caught up with the demands of modern civilization, but fortunately human knowledge has — we now better understand how to overcome evolutionary limitations.

This is the story of how humans have coped with information and organization from the beginning of civilization. It’s also the story of how the most successful members of society — from successful artists, athletes, and warriors, to business executives and highly credentialed professionals — have learned to maximize their creativity, and efficiency, by organizing their lives so that they spend less time on the mundane, and more time on the inspiring, comforting, and rewarding things of life.

Let’s see…

The most successful members of society,
[including] highly credentialed professionals [such as lawyers],
maximizing creativity and efficiency,
spending less time on the mundane,
and more time on the inspiring, comforting, and rewarding things of life…

That’s the rationale for making the effort to overcome the limitations of evolutionary cultural change.

Anybody up for it?

This year’s fourth annual Running Past Our Limits series is an abbreviated version of a longer series I posted on my personal blog earlier this year. You can go there to get the whole thing if you like!

Colorado Court of Appeals: Announcement Sheet, 9/24/2015

On Thursday, September 24, 2015, the Colorado Court of Appeals issued nine published opinions and 18 unpublished opinions.

People v. Serra

People v. Morehead

People v. Verigan

Rademacher v. Becker

In re Marriage of Lohman

American Family Mutual Insurance Co. v. American National Property & Casualty Co.

People in Interest of D.I.

Disciplinary Action Against the Real Estate Broker’s License of Bernard McDonnell v. Colorado Real Estate Commission

Loveland v. St. Vrain Valley School District

Summaries of these cases are forthcoming, courtesy of The Colorado Lawyer.

Neither State Judicial nor the Colorado Bar Association provides case summaries for unpublished appellate opinions. The case announcement sheet is available here.

Tenth Circuit: Unpublished Opinions, 9/23/2015

On Wednesday, September 23, 2015, the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals issued no published opinion and one unpublished opinion.

Kirby v. Resmae Mortgage Corp.

Case summaries are not provided for unpublished opinions. However, published opinions are summarized and provided by Legal Connection.