Why Ask Why?

question markAny parent who’s lived through the terrible 2’s  knows the appeal, and the annoyance, of the question “why”.

Life, to a two year old, is a series of interconnected questions.

Why are things this wayWhy?

The centrality of that question to bankruptcy lawyers surprised me this weekend when Jay Fleischman and I conducted a workshop on practice skills for bankruptcy lawyers.  Jay was tasked with our “keynote” address,  so to speak.

Before we market ourselves and our skill set, he suggested, we need to ask why we do what we do.  Why are we bankruptcy lawyers?  The answer should animate the questions that follow:  what? and how?

If our “why” is “making a living”, I would propose that bankruptcy practice is a poor choice.  This practice is simply too difficult and the margins too thin if your reason for practice is purely economic.

If your “why” involves something deeper, and particularly if it involves something more outward focused, this practice is a tremendous choice.

Jay’s “why” invoked the need for individuals to have peace in their home;  mine is probably to free clients from avoidable stress to allow them to provide for themselves and their dependents in the future.

My “why” also has a more self centered facet:  I can’t imagine another  practice where the fabric of the practice involves an intellectually complex web of state and federal law and where the challenge of  moving client perceptions from here to there is so central.

The “why” question turned out to drive what we write for our online readers and what use we made of social media.

Maybe the two year olds were right.  Why? is a good place to start.

Image courtesy of alexanderdrachmann.

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  1. When Jay circulated the question I hesitated to answer. It seemed I was once again being overly idealistic – to heal the economy one family at a time, to assist people in prioritizing their goals and the future of their families, to relieve unnecessary stress – this is what came to my mind.

    Thank you for articulating the “why” of the why. Because this is what motivates me, I need to keep it in mind.

    And of course I agree with your comment on the intellectual challenge of it all. I find it continually fascinating.

    •  It’s hard to think of a field of law where you can make such a difference in people’s lives so quickly and so predictably.  I always hope that, having gotten their attention at a vulnerable moment, I can help them reorient themselves in the world of money.