No Regrets

May 13, 2005

The newest law school requires that if you apply, you have to have your personal statement (among other things) ready to upload, right then and there. And of course, this request was so different from the former, that I was unable to use anything from the statement that I had written for my application to UNM.

I connected better with this request however, because they wanted to know what I might have to offer in building a diverse student body. They also asked to know "about your distinctive qualities, talents, successes, achievements and life experiences."

Yeah, I think I do some things a little different.

This is what I wrote.

No Regrets

Many things in life are not always as they may first appear and neither am I. I have had a very full and complete life and present many different faces to the world around me. One day you might see me in my work environment and label me a “Suit,” and on another, a surfer. You might have one impression after seeing me on my Harley, but I wonder if it would change if you knew I had just run up to the store to buy canning lids for the raspberry jam I was making?

I love going fast, and yet I love to walk, sometimes getting down in the dirt to catch an image of the late evening sunlight as it brushes the petals of a wildflower. I see mountains, and I climb them, sometimes as a trek, other times in a group technical climb. I have signed my name in on the registers of 14 of the highest peaks in the lower 48 states. Once, I made a promise to a little girl who saw adventure in the eyes of her dad as he set off on the trail. I told that six year old that if she were serious, one day I would get her to the top of a mountain. That day finally came the year she turned 15 and my daughter and I signed our names in the logbook at the summit of Longs Peak. I count that as a significant accomplishment for the two of us.

I have a passion for learning and knowledge and life experiences and I have been witness to much joy and great sorrow. I spent two years as an Emergency Room technician and have assisted at birth and have been present many times at the moment of death.

I watched an autopsy because I could.

I can build a computer from scratch and each year plant over a thousand flowers around my house.

I once spent 6 months in a wilderness cabin as a volunteer to pioneer the development of a winter camp for teens. Among other things I learned that winter is that red oak splits really well in sub-zero temperatures and that solitude is not all that it is cracked up to be.

I take the initiative and I am an independent thinker. After a long winter in the cabin I had been frustrated for several months in my attempts to even see, much less photograph any of the many deer that I knew were in the area. One late winter evening I decided to solve this problem and grabbed a tarp, two sleeping bags and my down coat. I set out for a field that I knew was traversed by a deer trail. I lay the tarp down on the middle of the trail, put one down sleeping bag inside of the other, climbed in and pulled on my wool hat. Come morning I didn’t get the photo I wanted, but sure enough, the deer woke me with their snorting and pawing at the snowy ground.

Much later in life, when I heard that the IRS would accept testimony on proposed regulations for distributions from retirement plans, I took it upon myself to get on the agenda and then go to Washington to present the testimony that I prepared. I believe that it had a significant impact on getting an arcane section of the regulations changed which in turn simplified the rules and lives for millions of retirees.

I am a critical thinker and I pay attention to detail. I enjoy the prospect of being confronted with mounds of complicated evidence or information and sorting it all out into something that is understandable. Some of my former students who are now colleagues have suggested to me that they think that teaching, mentoring and communicating are my greatest strengths. Whether it is the implementation of a complicated personal estate plan or a multi-corporation business succession plan, I am well aware that in general, if a client does not understand what is being recommended, he or she will not implement the suggested planning.

Working as an expert witness has taught me that there are close parallels between writing history and presenting a case before a jury. I was trained to translate source documents, search for corroborating sources, either in text or in archaeological evidence, and present my position. Years later, as I pored through hundreds of pages of documents I found myself in the very same place, looking for corroboration, following the paper trail and trying to reconstruct the history of a particular event.

I enjoy helping people complete their financial goals and objectives. I have been working in the financial services industry for thirty years now, and not only have I become the trusted financial advisor for my clients but a close personal friend as well. Many times I’ve also become not only the confidant, but a comforter not only for those on the edge of death but for their families as well.

I have learned that money does not come with a guide book and that great wealth and good character do not necessarily travel hand in hand.

I count as a significant business success my role in the transfer of control of a small manufacturing company in the early 1980’s. As the owner of the business was too ill to work, I began discussions with his son. I was able to convince the family to work with me and within a very short period of time we met in a lawyer’s conference room as a dying father signed wills, trusts and the business succession plan. That company with its 24 employees has now grown under the son’s leadership to become a true giant of industry, listed on the NYSE with over 41,000 world wide employees.

On an equal footing, I also treasure the heartfelt thank-you notes and comments of appreciation that I have received for watching over the finances of my elderly clients. Just this morning I was with a couple that became one of my very first clients, thirty years ago. I asked these folks, now in their mid 80's, what they might say relative to this personal statement and they said, “You are personable, you are tenacious, and you always take the time to find the best options for us. You are dependable, and you are honest. You have always done well for us and we are as happy as two clams in a shell. We love our home, we love our location and we love our lifestyle.”

That is what I would call success.