My First Solo

It was twelve years ago today, October 2, 2006, that I went solo.  I actually didn’t have much of a plan. I had obtained a position reviewing documents for large class actions which I could do from home on my computer. That was going to pay enough to pay my bills. That’s as far as I had gotten with my plan.

I had been working in consumer protection for four years, helping all kinds of people out of all kinds of bad deals, protecting them from harassing debt collectors, unwinding their complicated identity theft problems, and recovering money taken by home improvement contractors, car dealers and even dating services.  But even as fulfilling as that was, there was something missing. I didn’t know what, I just knew I needed a change. I didn’t really look around for other jobs, but I found the document review opportunity and thought it would allow me to rethink my path as an attorney.

Within a week or two, my old boss called asking if I was interested in helping all the people that called his firm looking for help defending against credit card and medical collection.  So I shifted from being the lawyer that brought suit to being the lawyer that defended clients in court. And no one else was really doing that with any regularity.

Almost exactly two years later, though, the economy dramatically shifted when the real estate bubble burst and the country went into recession.  The need for lawyers helping homeowners in foreclosure increased dramatically and as I had already handled a few foreclosures for homeowners, I was in position to take on more of these cases.  Now I have the largest foreclosure defense practice in the state.

This did not come easy.  Helping a homeowner save their home from foreclosure is labor-intensive, document and paperwork intensive and takes a lot of time and patience, both on my part and the part of the homeowner.  I have had to hire staff to handle the paperwork, answer the phones and manage the office. This was a scary process- I used to work alone in a spare bedroom, then I rented a small office, but now I need space for four employees, and then some.  This all needs to be paid for. Everyone wonders how I do it: “How do you get paid if your clients can’t pay their mortgage?”

Good question.  Probably the most important lesson I’ve learned from growing this business is to figure out what clients really want.  When you think about it, people pay for the things they want. If they REALLY want that Starbucks coffee, they will have the money to pay for it.  If they REALLY want a Lexus car, they will find a way to pay for it. And if they REALLY want help in court when their home is in foreclosure, they will make sure to pay their lawyer for that help.  

I did assume for a long time that everyone wanted to save their house, or that everyone who called me wanted to pay for legal services.  I’ve been working on how to have the conversation to figure out what people really WANT. I’ve learned it’s OK to not want to keep your house, and it’s OK if people don’t think paying for a lawyer is worth it.  I want to work with the people who REALLY want legal help from me, people who value having a lawyer by their side, a lawyer who will explain the process to them, who will walk them through each step and clarify what is going on in court so they aren’t so confused, don’t feel helpless, and aren’t spending any more sleepless nights over their foreclosure.  

Even better are the clients who know we will solve their legal problem and who want to do better in the future.  People who are motivated to manage their money so they will NEVER be in foreclosure again, and who will have savings and a retirement plan and a future to look forward to.  Because I’ve learned it was never the foreclosure that was the problem, that was just the symptom of many decisions over the years that led to an inability to pay the mortgage.  I can treat the symptoms, but the fulfilling part is working together with clients to cure the underlying problem.

Picturing Foreclosure

Who do you picture when you hear the word Foreclosure?  Do you picture people sitting around piles of cash they have saved up because they haven’t paid their mortgage? Do you picture people going on vacation on the money they saved by not paying their mortgage?  Do you think they are sleeping soundly on a bed of sweet-smelling flowers and wake up to rainbows?

Maybe that’s what you picture, since we have been trained, as good Americans, to work hard and pay our bills.  So if someone isn’t paying their bills they must really be enjoying all the “extra” money they have hanging around.  If we all believe that paying your bills = good and not paying bills = bad, then of course you think there is some benefit to the person not paying their bills, that they have “gotten away with something,” and are getting rich in the process.

After years and years of working with people in debt, I can tell you not being able to pay bills comes with nothing but gray hair and sleepless nights.

I’ve been trying to figure out who is more likely to be in foreclosure so that I can “target” my advertising better.  I want to focus my advertising time, energy and money on that group. The problem is, there is no ONE group more likely to be in foreclosure.  I have helped doctors, lawyers, real estate agents, mortgage brokers, landscapers, painters, contractors, nurses, teachers, retirees, the disabled–you name it—who have all fallen on hard (or even harder) times.  The only common denominator is owning a home. Whether your mortgage payment is $3000 per month or $900 per month, your home is your castle.  

And hardship doesn’t discriminate.  

I have a list a mile long of the terrible things that happened to my clients before they fell behind on their bills, all which fall under the main categories of unemployment, divorce, disability or injury, having to care for someone sick, or death of a spouse or family member.  That stuff can happen to anyone.

Believe me no one who isn’t paying their mortgage fat, happy and sitting on a pile of cash.  They come to my office crying, depressed, sleep deprived and arguing with their spouse because of the stress that reduced household income and inability to pay bills causes.  Don’t think for a minute that the shame and embarrassment is any less for the house painter than the doctor, or that it’s any easier for the real estate agent than the nurse to reach out for help.

I was talking to a friend today who just went through a major health crisis, which got worse while he was in denial about the seriousness of his condition before finally going to his doctor.  His takeaway is that he feels we should all be talking about our issues and how they affect us and make us feel. He specifically said he’s seeing a counselor to get over the stress he experienced while getting urgent medical treatment, and he thinks the more we all discuss that the better we will all be, and that we will be more likely to reach out for help when we need it sooner.

I couldn’t agree more.  I’ve been saying that for years, I even had the Got Debt? logo imprinted on my business cards for years because when I showed it to people it would make them smile and more likely to discuss money problems.  In my experience, the sooner someone reaches out for help with their financial issues the more options they have. Nine times out of ten I’m told by clients speaking to me has helped them sleep much better immediately.  At the very least, reaching out for help sooner can make you feel like you’re sleeping on a bed of flowers.

A Day in Court

I was in court a few days ago, a woman was there, representing herself, trying to tell the court that she was about to sell her house and the foreclosure ‘could stop now.’ She was too late. She tried explaining that the bank told her she’d be fine and needn’t worry about what was going on in court as long as the house was about to be sold. It didn’t matter, she was too late . . . by about a week.

More:

A different take in foreclosure court: usually the judge takes cases where attorneys have entered appearances – ostensibly to try and curb expenses, (who wants to pay a lawyer to sit in court all morning?) – but today, he decided to take homeowners representing themselves first – the better so they don’t miss work.

A lot of homeowners representing themselves don’t show up, but they did today.  So, I sat through foreclosure story after foreclosure story and a lot of pretty solid explanations why homes shouldn’t be foreclosed on.

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  It really is no fun to be in court by yourself….

One man explained he fell behind after his house sustained storm damage. His insurance company assured him he would be reimbursed in full for the repairs. Two checks came and he paid the contractors but then, for some reason, the bank held the last $19,000 check.

He is in the beginning of a foreclosure while still trying to work things out with the bank. That’s it, he, by himself, is working with his bank, only, to get money released and start to ‘take care of the mess.’

The judge set a date and if the homeowner doesn’t resolve the problem in time the bank will own his house. The poor guy has the attitude of someone who just can’t believe that the problem won’t get resolved, that the bank won’t do the right thing. Eventually.

Other families came before the judge with different stories based on the same theme – the bank said ‘x’ and they’ll be following up … soon.

All of them now have foreclosure dates.

I wrote a few weeks ago about where the banks’ interest lay. To tersely sum up that post – the banks do not share many interests with regular people.

The general rule is once you don’t feel your bank is helping you or listening to you, you need to stop seeking help and advice from them.  I mean, if if you were arrested, would you ask the cops for help?  I think we have been trained from all the law shows on TV to know there’s an adversarial relationship between the police and someone who has been arrested (even if the person is innocent).  What TV hasn’t taught us – because how un-sexy would a show about foreclosure court be – is that the banks and mortgage lenders are the cops and homeowners have the right to remain silent and have the right to seek the advice of an attorney.  People who are arrested know that without an attorney they are likely to lose some liberties- likely to spend time in jail.  People in foreclosure are also at risk of losing similar liberties- like the right to own their homes- if they don’t seek out the advice of an attorney.

So please, don’t be standing in front of a judge before it occurs to you to check with a lawyer.

Foreclosure Ten Years After the Collapse

Lehman Brothers collapsed ten years ago this week triggering the Recession, the effects of which are still lingering. I, certainly, see them almost every day.

The spate of foreclosures that closely followed Lehman and AIG’s collapses are still clogging courts across the U.S.. According to a few recent reports I’ve read, foreclosure filings won’t peak for another two years. All told, that’s at a dozen years of misery for a significant percentage of Connecticut homeowners.

The years since the collapse also happened to coincide – almost exactly – with the most prolific, almost instantaneous, exchange of information in human history.

So, it’s no surprise the Internet is alive with conspiracy theories about mortgages and foreclosures  – conspiracies involving banks, mortgage lenders, government entities, brokerage firms, real estate investment companies, hedge funds, foreclosure law firms, and a host more.

An entire industry has arisen around these theories, complete with handy solutions to ‘fix’ your foreclosure, maybe even get a ‘free house’ out of the deal  – a favorite phrase. Many of the sites offering these also offer a vast index of links to get you started. They usually start out free, then . . . well, you know.

This stuff is out there, they’re up there in the Google search rankings and pretty hard to miss, and, as far as I can see, have resulted in one, two max, ‘free homes’ in twelve years and millions of foreclosure filings. The lottery has better odds . . . I’ll also note that in one of those cases the legal fees – the case went to a state supreme court – exceeded the value of the home. By a lot.

What the preponderance of these sites, and all the ‘magic-erase-your-debt’ company sites, really does is bury the lawyers and court services and everyone else that can really help while obscuring the legitimate issues and solutions of the for89a3c0192640c5b0f17b47e53441975declosure process.

Case in point, a large foreclosure firm filed against a homeowner in southeastern Connecticut about a year ago. The homeowner skipped a response in state court and went straight to Federal District Court with a complaint that the court kindly referred to a ‘somewhat repetitive, verbose, and dense.’

The homeowner’s complaint was straight off several self-help websites. It attacked the ‘system’ while ignoring the nuts and bolts. The district court was not unsympathetic to some piece of the argument, tried several times to direct the homeowner toward something legally solid (the court, in fact, did everything but highlight the relevant passages in neon yellow), failed each time as the plaintiff merely regurgitated their first – and only – argument. Endlessly.

The homeowners missed the golden opportunities offered by the court; the foreclosure firm made a half a dozen procedural errors in their pursuit of the state foreclosure action that the homeowners – guided by the web-based conspiracy crowd – missed in their attempt to slay the giant.

After a long and tortuous process, the homeowners lost; the foreclosure firm touted it as a notable, precedent setting win on various industry web sites. (Every side is entitled to their own illusions).

Maybe there was (and is) a conspiracy (s), certainly a lot of really bad things happened to take down the economy. The thing is: none of that matters – the foreclosure process is not the place to blow the lid off any of that. It’s the place to work to either keep your home or stay in it as long as possible while you rearrange your life.

These websites and self-help programs offer a narrative for a confusing, stressful time. They do not offer realistic  solutions for going to court to defend a foreclosure.

They’re not going to save your house, they’re not going to keep you in the house while you plan, they’re not going to guide you through the pros and cons of each path, they’re not going to help you make an informed decision, and they sure aren’t going to present your best face to the Judge.

Foreclosure and Empathy

To paraphrase one of the five worst* people who ever lived, ‘when something really bad happens to one person, it’s a tragedy; when it happens to a million, it’s a statistic.’

360_1929_crash_1028This is certainly true of foreclosures. At least today.

I bring this up because I am sometimes asked why I expend such time and energy defending foreclosure actions. I say sometimes because it’s only occasionally verbally stated, usually it’s expressed via ‘that look.’

‘That look’ – a slight crinkling of the eyebrows, a thin, quick frown, maybe a brief tilt of the head when I say what I do.

Unless, of course, they have been through foreclosure themselves or had family or friends involved. Then I get a knowing nod, smile.

Why? Because years ago, before I graduated high school, foreclosures were something that happened to ‘other people’ and in virtual secrecy. They were much, much rarer on the court calendars than they are today. And, it probably took a lot more to get a case to court. Banks and mortgage companies were much more likely to be local – another word for approachable. You could talk to your banker, lender, face-to-face, work things out.

Foreclosures then were small tragedies that happened in the very occasional neighborhood.

The financial meltdown of 2007-8 changed that. In months, millions of homeowners were at risk and failing quickly. Very, very few local banks and lenders exist anymore, corporations and computers took over years ago. Out of necessity, the foreclosure process became industrialized.

The people in the long lines and crowded hallways in the courthouses have become statistics. In the eight years since the meltdown the two largest foreclosure firms in the Greater Hartford area have filed over 70,000 foreclosure cases. And counting.

The great tragedy with that is individuals are lost. Completely. A file is a file is a statistic – win, lose, draw, but close the case.

So, when I get ‘that look’ I try to bring it back to the first or second person, away from that horrible third person ‘them.’ The easiest, most effective way is to point out the effect of this crisis on neighborhoods – “Well, would you want a foreclosed house in your neighborhood?  How about more than one?”

That takes it back to the first person pretty quickly. I can’t enforce empathy, but I can provide it, though I wish I didn’t have to.

When Geoffrey Owens Played a Lawyer . . .

I posted something about Geoffrey Owens and ‘job shaming’ on Facebook last week because I saw in the ‘story’ of Geoffrey’s job at Trader Joe’s something I see regularly working with people going through foreclosure: the ‘debt shaming’ I write about often. It seemed especially poignant as all this was precipitated by Owens losing his steady income source, The Cosby Show residuals that went away when the show was pulled from syndication because of the sexual abuse charges leveled at Cosby.

Just like many of my clients, an unexpected change in income had a disastrous effect.

All that reminded me of a great Geoffrey Owens role as one of my favorite TV lawyers of all time: Gerald Watkins Mayfield in HBO’s Divorce.

Divorce is the story of a successful business woman, Frances (Sarah Jessica Parker) and her not quite as successful husband, Robert (Thomas Hayden Church) living in Hastings-on-Hudson NY, a pretty, upscale town on the Hudson River an hour or so north of New York City. The town, by the way, is pretty much a character.

sarahbloghboObviously, they have marital problems. They go through all the motions of therapy and reconciliation and mediation, it’s obvious six show or so in that they need to divorce and it’s going to get ugly.

They need lawyers. Robert’s not the type to ask around or spend time on Google, or, indeed, doing anything proactive. Eventually, though, a friend introduces him to  a relative who’s an attorney right in town and ‘does everything.’ That would be Gerald Watkins Mayfield and he is everything I’ve been writing for years.

He works out of his garage and his wife pops in every few minutes to remind him to ‘watch the oven, dinner’s in’ but, all in all, it’s pretty charming. Until he starts talking. Then it’s funny and chilling – if you’re a lawyer.

The scene (easily the funniest in the show, period):

“So, you do mostly divorces?”

“Nope, mostly wills, trusts, estates.”

“You do some divorces?”

“You know what, Robert? Basically, it’s all law.”

That’s it, in a nutshell, perfectly put by a great character. ‘Basically, it’s all law.’

It’s not, of course, but clients still buy into it. As Robert does. Disastrously. I’ll leave it to you to watch the show to see just how disastrously it is.

For now, though, just understand that if you need a divorce attorney, hire a firm that does family law; need an estate plan? Hire an estate planning firm; are facing a foreclosure? Retain someone who does exactly that most of her working day.

Foreseeing Effects

First semester of law school everyone takes Torts. It’s an interesting course, rarely boring as you’re reading about some pretty gruesome medical malpractices, product liabilities, personal injuries.

An important concept in tort law is ‘reasonable foreseeability.’ Basically -very basically – it boils down to ‘was it reasonably foreseeable that not having your two-ton truck’s squealing, grinding breaks fixed might eventually result in losing them coming down a steep hill and getting into an accident?

I thought of this earlier this week when I noticed a comment on the Facebook page. We had posted a whiteboard cartoon explaining the crumbling foundation crisis in Eastern Connecticut. The caption mentioned that HUD Secretary Ben Carson had just toured a home with a crumbling foundation and had promised some federal relief. The comment was brief and to the point: ‘Another thing to bail out, I’m sick of this state.’

I get this viewpoint, I really do – I pay taxes in Connecticut, too. And, I wish it were that simple. But, of course, it is not. Because while this crisis – and it is a crisis – snuck up on us over more than a decade, it’s effects – from here on – are most certainly foreseeable.

First, 34,000 homes in 41 towns in Eastern Connecticut may be affected. Homeowners insurance will not cover the condition, banks and mortgage companies have no solutions, the costs of repairs – if at all feasible – are usually prohibitive. Government resources and funds are needed.

To take a complicated situation and greatly simplify, it goes like this -dozens of homes in a small town have crumbling basements:

Instantly they lose whatever equity the homeowners have built up over the years;

The homeowners cannot, obviously, refinance or obtain a home equity loan to fix the problem – if it is fixable;

The house cannot be sold;

The tax assessment by the town drops like a rock;

The more houses – and, remember, there are 34,000 homes that may have this problem – a town has with the problem, the more it’s tax base drops;

The more the town’s tax base drops, the more cutbacks to services, the more cutbacks to schools;

Cutbacks in services and schools inevitably mean lower rankings for livability and schools;

The lower the rankings, especially for schools, the lower the desirability for new homebuyers;

The fewer new home buyers, the lower the assessments;

And we start all over again;

Except, by now, since this effects 41 towns, the consequences are seen on a statewide basis, as about one-third of the state can no longer contribute much to Connecticut’s already hurting economy.

If we don’t come up with solutions to this problem – wide ranging, creative solutions – the effects are all too foreseeable and they will be felt by everyone.

The Politics of Debt

Last month we posted an article on Facebook about the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. The article, I think it was from the Washington Post, was a simple, concise recitation of the many hurdles the CFPB has been facing over the last year or so. It talked about their actions against Wells Fargo and the fact they have not pursued a single matter in the the last year. Moribund under it’s new director, was how the article put it, I think.

It was a straightforward article, it reported that the CFPB wasn’t working and speculated on whether or not it had a future.

We posted it with a heading wondering about the future of CFPB an the effect that could have on clients and law firms that do what I do. Short and sweet, the caption on that came with the link said it all, or so I thought. I should note that we’ve posted about the CFPB in the past and always received thoughtful, insightful comments.

As we began to with this post. Then, it was shared.by at least 6 of our followers (thank you!). Then some of the people it was shared to shared it as well. Which was all great … until about three days in.

That’s when we started getting vile comments. Really nasty stuff. For a while we erased the offensive comments and banned their ‘authors’ from the page. But, it got to be too much and we had to drop the post from Facebook. That’s why we can’t show an image of it here.

The comments, some remarkably, if not terribly creatively profane, revolved around the very invocation of Elizabeth Warren’s name, though a few went deeper into the ‘libtards’ plot to destroy banking and Wall Street.

Here’s the thing: before we erased, blocked, and banned we checked out each offender’s home Facebook page. It’s stunning, by the way, how many people ignore Facebook’s privacy settings and leave everything out there for anyone.

There was not a banker, broker, arbitrager, Axe Capital employee, investment banker, mortgage company exec, wolf of wall street, master of the universe, or even one of their lawyers in the lot of them. They were all regular people – a few retired state employees, a couple of people on disability, a mechanic, a teacher, and the like. They had very little in common other than having time to comment on a Facebook post from a law firm in Connecticut and despising, violently, the CFPB.

Okay, they had one more thing in common – they were the exact same demographic that Wells Fargo targeted in their schemes over the last few years. The schemes the CFPB identified, punished, shut down.

Here’s another thing: I deal in debt and foreclosure every day and I can attest to the fact that debt – personal debt – has nothing to do with anyone’s political affiliation. it has a lot to do with sudden unemployment, unforeseen death, divorce, illness, and a dozen other out-of-the-blue-soul-and-financial-crushing events very few people have  a (or can) plan for.

Politicians and lobbyists can divide along ideological lines and fight things like the CFPB out in Congress and in the airwaves of public opinion. But when someone, a regular someone, is blindsided by, well, life, and is facing losing their home (and more), there are no ideological lines.

There’s just trying to fix it.

Black Mirror, China, and Moving On

This piece is the result of a perfect confluence of a couple of scattered news articles that flitted across my news feed over the last week and a 12:30 am TV commercial.

First, the commercial: two friends hanging out when one gets a text, YOUR CREDIT SCORE HAS CHANGED! “Whoa,” the other friend exclaims, ‘why’d you get that?” “I get instant updates on all my credit reports,” replies the other, “don’t you know credit scores can change anytime?”

No, the friend didn’t know that, but he’s filled in now, credit scores can change any time, who wouldn’t want to be on top of it? It’s implied, not very subtly, that it’s the height of irresponsibility not to track one’s credit score 24/7.  Luckily, XYZ company is there for you and, get this, it’s free to start!

The news items were about China – they are expanding their efforts to bring their brand of capitalism to the world and they have begun to institute a system of ‘social credit’ scores for their citizens, a program that has just started but is slated for a nationwide roll-out in 2020.

‘Social credit.’ I first became aware of the concept like a lot of people did, through the Netflix and BBC show, Black Mirror.  The first episode of the third season, Nose Dive, was about a not so distant future where every one of our social interactions, from buying a coffee at Starbucks, to standing in line in an airport, to who you interact with in the office, are rated on a 1 to 5 scale. Your place in society is determined by your average score, the higher the average the better the car you can lease, community you can live in, job you can apply for.

It’s scary in that ‘it can easily happen’ sort of way that China seems ready to turn into reality. The whole, ‘let’s grade everyone on everything they do’ motif feeds into a ‘let me see what I’m rated today’ that can quite easily become an obsession that just gets in the way of, well, life.

But, that’s not why I’m writing about this today. What all this did was remind me, vividly, of a constant theme of this blog and my book, the effect shame and embarrassment have on potential clients. We have long been conditioned to consider a dropping credit rating, an unpaid bill, a certified letter or 1-800 call, a law suit, a foreclosure, anything about money that negatively reflects on us, mortifying.

And, indeed, there is a public shaming element to ‘social credit’, it’s implicit. But, we’re not there yet and hopefully never will be. In the meantime, despite this, I am constantly explaining to new clients that what they are going through has, indeed, happened to other people, often. That it’s not a matter of being embarrassed or shamed, it’s a matter of just taking care of the issue in the best possible way and moving on with one’s life.

No one who matters is judging you, credit scores can be repaired, the banks, lawyers, court clerks, judges, and collection companies are all on to the next case, there are no institutional memories.

Embarrassment and shame and a dozen other emotions serve only one purpose – they inhibit people from seeking help at the time professional help is most effective. This goes for foreclosure defense as well as family law issues and dealing with the IRS and a host of other matters.

Good lawyers have seen everything in their area of practice, they deal with everything, they will not judge. Most of all, they won’t be rating you on or off social media.

3:59.4

Sir Roger Bannister, 88, died last week. The man who broke the four minute mile in 1954. Accolades have been flowing around the world, a familiar story told and retold: a sub 4-minute mile was impossible; doctors and sports trainers believed breaking the 4-minute barrier would kill the runner; Bannister, a great cross-country runner, refused to listen to any of it and simply ran his guts out one cool, overcast day and proved all of them wrong.

Good story, but not really true and, as these things usually go, not as good as the real story. One of the best articles I’ve read over the last week or so was by Malcolm Gladwell, The Ordinary Greatness of Roger Bannister. 

Ordinary Greatness. You see, Roger Bannister was not an elite runner when he did the ‘impossible.’ He was a very good cross-country runner and a competitive miler – mostly because he was tall, lanky, and had a great stride. He was running for a club, sporadically because his real job was full-time medical student. He trained during his lunch hour. After a particularly bad week of training he took off with a friend to hike in Scotland. On the face of it, Rudy showed more single-minded intensity over a longer period to make his 15 second appearance for the Fighting Irish than Bannister did in pursuit of sports immortality.

That would be wrong, though. Roger Bannister knew exactly what he was doing every step of the way to 3:59.4 for the simple reason he planned every step. Literally. As a good, solid runner, Bannister knew what it took to run a 4 minute mile. Any halfway decent runner, then and now, knows what it takes because every halfway decent runner can run a 4 minute pace for at least fifty yards.

A 4-minute mile is 15 miles per hour. The mile is symmetric, four laps around the track. At a minute each, you have a four minute mile. In between med school classes, Bannister planned it all out. He studied the effects of 15 mph on the body and made adjustments to his diet, breathing, stride; he redesigned his shoes (at the time the spikes alone weighed more than track shoes today) and figured out a greasy formula that kept track cinders (all tracks were cinder tracks then) from sticking and clotting his spikes.

Then he plotted the race. It wasn’t about running just under a minute, four times over, it was about not being exhausted at the end and being able to utilize his long stride and big kick to maximum advantage … which meant figuring out the precise, optimum time to do so.  Go too early, run out of gas at the end; go too late, finish over 4 minutes with wasted gas still in the tank.

There was also the matter of the first laps and keeping, without going too far over or too far under, that one minute or so pace. It was 1954, times were kept by hand-held stopwatches, there were no scoreboards showing the time in illuminated digits. How, then, to insure he kept the pace he settled on in the first laps? He solved that problem by using ‘rabbits’ – friends who would pace him before dropping off.

The rest, of course, is history. He executed his plan, replicated that success three months later in Vancouver against Australian John Landry. Bannister improved his time to 3:58.9, Landry, also broke the 4-minute mark for the second time. Bannister then retired from running to devote all his time to becoming a neurologist.

If you’ve been a client, or read my book, you know where I’m going with this – it’s all about planning. Especially legal issues. Though it may not seem it to someone facing a foreclosure, or in the middle of a contract dispute, or a contentious divorce, or … well, you get the picture, take a moment to sit back, breathe, and plan with your lawyer. The big picture – 3:59.4 – and the little things – keeping your cleats from clogging.

That way, we can all achieve ordinary greatness.