The Whitley Law Firm believes in giving back to the communities in which we live and work. The following four programs are designed to help young members of our communities by fostering awareness and encouraging ongoing education in many different areas. Please contact Whitley Law Firm for more information on how to get involved with these programs:
The ARRIVE ALIVE Program
Lawyer Dreams. Dig them out. Dust them off. Make them real!
Law Practice Magazine, July/August 2004
Click here for printable version (PDF) of the article.
“I’M LIVING MY DREAM, EVERY DAY OF MY LIFE,” says Mike Coffield, one of the country’s top trial lawyers. Getting there wasn’t easy, though. Coffield will tell you that it ultimately took a cold eye and some real courage to walk away from the 110-lawyer Chicago firm where his name topped the letterhead, not many lawyers could turn their back on that. But then how many lawyers do you know who can say they are living their dream? Law Practice set out to meet some, and to find out how they did it, what inspired them and what they have in common.
By Merrilyn Astin Tarlton
The wonderful lawyers we found come in the form of role models who’ve carved out their own niches, made the tough choices, shrugged off the implication that they should do or want what others want, or traversed a path through a labyrinth of personal, cultural and social resistance to get to the heart of the matter-to make their dreams realities.
Take Tama Kieves, a Harvard Law honors graduate who threw off the strictures of her too-practical upbringing to become a writer. Or Bob Whitley, a North Carolina PI lawyer who’s determined to spend his own money to reduce the number of teenage drunk-driving deaths. Or Marilyn Kite, the first woman appointed to the Wyoming Supreme Court, who shifted through successive gears to find the life balance her early-'70s advisors promised law practice would provide.
These people-and many others-are living their dreams, not through sheer luck, but as a result of dogged determination. In some instances, it took nearly a lifetime to get there. In almost all instances, it took a good dose of something lawyers are truly good at: analytical thinking.
Figuring out the big picture and-step by step-breaking a new path.
What’s your dream? An endless stream of topflight, quick-paying clients? A house in the mountains? A practice helping the indigent, money is damned? Well, chances are that whatever your dream is, you’ve got the mettle to make it a reality. But that requires that steps be taken. By you.
Number 1. Know your dream. Sounds simple enough. But for many, it isn’t. Dreams can be stashed away in long forgotten and fairly creepy psychic corners in deference to what others want for you, what you think you should want, what you are told you will want or what’s acceptable to wish for in your world. Dig out your dream. Dust it off. Shine it up. Rediscover why you loved it in the first place.
Number 2. Figure out the steps that will get you from where you are to where you dream of being. Be conscious that it might not be possible to know all the steps in the beginning. While a dream may lend itself to a clear enumeration of necessary actions, it’s more than likely that your dream presents little more than a general direction in which to head. If that’s the case, determine the first step or two that can be taken now. From there, you can figure out the next step, and the next, and so on.
Number 3. Take them-the steps, that is. This maybe the most difficult of all because really good and tantalizing dreams often require letting go of something else. Do you yearn to conduct the local symphony? You’re probably going to have to cut back on your billable hours and start fitting in music theory classes. Are you targeting motherhood? Kiss those impromptu weekends in the woods a big good-bye. Aspire to be managing partner? Better start mending some fences and clearing up any long-term grudges. Drawn to tax law but practicing in a cowboy litigation boutique? What you lose in personal esteem you may ultimately make up for in the form of job satisfaction. But in almost any case, you’ll need to let go of something.
Of course, it isn’t as simple as one, two, three! You’ll get discouraged, confused and angry from time to time. But you’ll also find that you have more energy, stay focused longer and bring an infectious enthusiasm to all you do when you have a star to guide you.
Have you ever listened to other people talking about their special dream-the one they’ve accomplished or the one they see down the road? Have you noticed how their every molecule just seems riveted in the same direction? The glint in their eyes? The power in their speech? How totally alive they seem? Even the most tedious activities are by-gum energized when they lead to that one thing, that one passion ... that one dream that is yours alone.
Now, let’s start with number 1: What’s your dream? For inspiration on defining and achieving it, turn the pages and read the stories of lawyers who’ve turned dreams into reality.
Robert E. Whitley
The Dream: To give back to the community by discouraging underage drinking and driving.
The number one cause of death for 16 through 21 year olds in the United States is drunk driving. Ten years ago, Bob Whitley decided to do something about it. He wanted to convince teenagers not to drink and drive. He had a theory that getting the straight scoop about the risks from someone who has seen them up close - a personal injury lawyer -- might carry the clout necessary to change young minds. But, being serious about having an impact, he hired a professional to conduct focus groups to learn whom North Carolina teenagers really listen to. It turns out that, rightly or wrongly, teenagers listen to their peers and siblings over parents, teachers or clergy-or even trial lawyers. So Whitley put that knowledge to use.
As a community service of his firm he created a program called “Arrive Alive” and filmed a powerful video titled “Why You Should Say No.” In it, he speaks with two families tragically affected by a drunk driving collision. The video is made available for free to schools, civic organizations, churches and any group willing to use it as the focal point of peer-group discussions.
In addition, to facilitate parent-child collaboration, the firm sponsors “Get Out of Jail Free” cards, which memorialize the agreement of a parent to pick up a child anytime, anywhere, without questions, if it means avoiding riding with a drunk driver. On top of that, each year the firm gives thousands of dollars in scholarships to high school seniors who write essays about underage drinking. The essays are published in a booklet that is widely distributed through schools, particularly during prom season.
It’s a small firm of six lawyers but their “give back” is huge. “You can’t measure the impact of these efforts,” Whitley says. “But I feel confident that at least one teenager has made a decision not to drink and drive because of us, and that single act, frankly, makes it worthwhile.”
Helping Hands? “The families I’ve represented. I’ve not experienced this sort of loss myself. But I’ve lived it through and with them. I know, also, that there is no way to really understand the loss as a mere observer.”
Lessons Learned? “Teenagers really want to do something about this horrible epidemic. They feel and take the responsibility and, amazingly, don’t put the responsibility off onto their elders. They believe it is their job.”
What’s Next? “I’ve always discouraged families from becoming too involved with the criminal aspects of these tragedies, so as to avoid further suffering. But I’ve worked with three different families over the course of the last few months and my experiences with them have led to a new conviction to encourage our state legislature to increase the criminal punishment for deaths caused by drunk driving.”
Merrilyn Astin Tarlton (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a law firm management consultant and the Editor-in-Chief of Law Practice magazine.
From Law Practice magazine, July/August 2004.
“Saving teens from the tragedies that result from underage drinking and driving”
Arrive Alive is a community service program developed in April of 1999 by Whitley Law Firm to show teens the tragedies that can result from underage drinking and driving. The program includes a 17-minute video that features testimonials from two families who have been affected by alcohol-related accidents. The video helps to remind everyone that there are so many more people affected by alcohol-related accidents than just the car wreck victims. Poignantly told, the stories will help encourage discussion within your group, and a brochure is included with the video to help facilitate discussion. Our hope is that when teens view the video they will understand “Why You Should Say No.”
The video has been endorsed by the Substance Abuse Section of North Carolina and is being implemented in local Mental Health programs including DWI classes and prevention programs. The video is available to youth organizations, church groups, public and private schools, driver’s education classes, SADD and MADD chapters, and any other interested organizations. The family aspect of the video has the capacity to reach many age groups of people.
Statistics are what drive our efforts. A statewide survey funded by the Robert Wood Foundation reports:
- 62% of youth report that they have been intoxicated
- 23% of youth have experienced episodic heavy drinking
- 26% of youth drank before age 13
- 40% of youth drink alcohol
Other youth research groups also report these frightening statistics:
- 1 out of every 5 persons will be involved in an alcohol-related automobile accident
- A person dies in an alcohol-related collision every 22 minutes
- Significantly more than 50% of the nation’s junior and senior high school students drink alcoholic beverages
If you would like a copy of this video or are interested in learning more about the Arrive Alive program, please contact:
Alicia Delamere, Director of Marketing and Community Relations