April 19, 2019

Archives for December 10, 2015

The Culture of Law (Part 17): Culture and Meaning

rhodesIain McGilchrist has been our guide before in our consideration of brain-based culture. Let’s hear from him one last time:

Despite the brittle optimism constantly proclaimed by advertising, and not infrequently by government spokesmen, the defining mood of the modern era is one of disappointment. That is not just my opinion; it’s as near a fact as such things can be. People are measurably less happy today than they were fifty years ago, when we first started measuring, despite staggering improvements in material well-being. There is much to feel proud of, of course, advances in conquering disease being just one example, and we live longer — but prompting the question, for what?

From The Divided Brain And The Search For Meaning.

“For what?” is a question about meaning. According to McGilchrist, how we answer depends on which side of the brain prevails. If the left side, we will focus on being reasonable and rational, on working out utilitarian solutions. If the right, we’ll broaden the discussion to the pursuit of meaning, which has much to do with our own happiness.

Of course, we could avoid the cultural debate altogether, and let cultural evolution take care of it, meanwhile continuing to embrace without examination the cultural norms that make law culture “recognizable as such to both members and non-members” — including behaviors they label alternately as “admirable” and “distasteful.”

We could be sedated into thoughtlessness and soullessness by the “staggering improvements in material well-being” our profession offers us in our show me the money moments. Or we could take a contrarian monetary outlook, and embrace the don’t show me the money alternative.

We could argue and debate, and feel righteous about the positions we take, even though what we’re actually doing is defending our neuro-cultural status quo for the sake of our own neurological peace of mind. Or we could argue “on the other hand” and advocate hacking (in either its outlaw or gentrified character) the law into something more suited to our preferred cultural imperative.

In other words, we could act like lawyers, working one side of the table, then the other. Nothing wrong with lawyers acting like lawyers, especially in matters of the law. But on the topic of law culture, we might want to broaden our inquiry, and entertain the “for what?” question from the fullness of what it means for us to be human, lawyers or not. To make that choice is to end detachment and instead engage ourselves with the meta-issues of our profession. As McGilchrist declares in his wrap up:

Meaning emerges from engagement with the world
not from abstract contemplation of it.

The stakes of engagement are higher, and the effort required of us more demanding, than the stakes and effort of detachment. Ultimately what’s at issue is not merely the future context in which law will be practiced by those in the profession — including the entrepreneurial newcomers — or how the profession will be regarded by the public it serves, but the happiness of us all.

We will find meaning in the law for ourselves by creating it through the neuro-cultural collective agreements we wish the other members of the culture to reciprocate. And once those agreements have found their places in our neural pathways, they will go on shaping our culture and us with it, creating meaning in our lives which we will demonstrate through our behavior as lawyers until we become “recognizable as such to both members and non-members” in our newly re-created profession.

Cultural evolution can’t and won’t give us our future of choice. We can only give that to ourselves by deliberate, focused action which may at times run contrary to the traditions of our cultural genetic coding.

Engaging with shaping the culture of law will lead us into the search for meaning… if we dare.

Those who dare will make brave choices and commitments, and they and those closest to them will invariably suffer as we and our law culture are neurologically re-shaped. All the while, we will continue to try cases, negotiate and close transactions, and do all the other things our profession requires all day (and all night) long, but ultimately, the best we can do for ourselves and others is to create meaning in our law culture, beginning with the meaning we create inside our own skins and skulls.

Those who dare will shape law culture for themselves, their colleagues, and ultimately the world that needs the law to be a living, dynamic, in-spirited agency of human happiness.

Not a bad notion to keep in mind as the holidays are upon us.

For a fascinating anthropological study of Anonymous, check out Hacker, Hoaxer, Whistle-Blower, Spy: The Many Faces of Anonymous. And, just for the fun of it, compare the cultural dynamics you see there to a vastly different kind of culture in another anthropological study, When God Talks Back: Understanding the American Evangelical Relationship With God. Trust me, put those two side by side, and you’ll never think about culture the same ever again.

And speaking of the gentrification of a radical culture, there may not be a more extreme example (hackers aside) than the gentrification of the annual ultra-bizarre cultural experiment know as Burning Man.

We looked at the subversive hacker culture as an agent of change in the law a couple times in the Future of Law series earlier this year, along with related topics such as the democratization of the law and open source/access. Both the Future and Culture of Law series will be collected in a new book, The Law It Is A-Changin’, to be out in early 2016.

Colorado Court of Appeals: Announcement Sheet, 12/10/2015

On Thursday, December 10, 2015, the Colorado Court of Appeals issued no published opinion and 42 unpublished opinions.

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, 12/9/2015

On Wednesday, December 9, 2015, the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals issued no published opinion and two unpublished opinions.

United States v. Laverty

United States v. Campos-Lucas

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