With Whom Are You in Relationship?

By Eric T. Cooperstein

So much of what we do—as lawyers, as bar associations, as business owners, as partners, as friends, as family—is about relationships. As Val Jensen says in this, our fourth-annual Profiles in Practice issue, “To break down barriers, we need to get to know each other beyond the resume.”

Profiles in Practice gives HCBA the opportunity to shine a light on some of the up-and-comers and unsung heroes of our local bar. As in past years, we feature interviews with nine lawyers, many of whom may not yet be known to you. It is a humbling experience to edit this issue—the attorneys being profiled and the writers capturing their stories do the heavy lifting. 

The Profiles issue always turns my thoughts toward the power of relationships. In March 2015, for the 50th anniversary of the voting rights march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, I attended a conference in Birmingham, Alabama. The Reverend Dr. Mark Morrison Reed opened the conference. Reed has studied the Selma voting rights march; his book, Selma Awakening: How the Civil Rights Movement Tested and Changed Unitarian Universalism, analyzes the role that the Unitarian Universalist denomination played in Selma and its aftermath. 

In his keynote, Reed retold how, after the marchers were savagely beaten and bloodied on their first attempt to cross the bridge, what became known as “Bloody Sunday,” a call went out for people to come to Selma to bolster the ranks of marchers. It was not just a figurative call or a sound bite on the news; Reed explained that before dawn on Monday morning, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. sent out a telegram calling upon clergy of all faiths to come to Selma. Several of those who received a telegram or a personal phone call from Dr. King were Unitarian Universalist clergy who had attended the Boston School of Theology with King. Dana McClean Greeley, then president of the UUA, was one of the people who received the telegram. Those clergy then called their colleagues. By Tuesday, the ranks of marchers had swelled significantly.

Reed explained that although ideology and justice and the righteousness of the cause were clearly on people’s minds, it was their relationships that prompted them to journey to Selma. When someone calls and asks you to go, you go. Reed asked the audience “with whom are you in relationship?” It became the mantra for the rest of his talk. How might your relationships make a difference in your life or even transform your life? 

That question echoes in my head. With whom are you in relationship? What connections do you seek, which friendships do you cultivate, with whom do you choose to build alliances? Profiles in Practice was born of these questions.

We could learn a few things about relationship from the attorneys profiled in this issue. Take note of how often they cite their families for support. They have mentors. They seek to give back. Whom do you mentor or sponsor? With whom are you in relationship?

For Profiles in Practice to have its greatest impact, we hope it will inspire you to reach out to someone you have met but do not know well and invite them to coffee or lunch to get to know them better. Get to know your colleagues beyond their resumes. 

Eric T. Cooperstein, the “Ethics Maven,” defends lawyers and judges against ethics complaints, provides lawyers with advice and expert opinions, and represents lawyers in fee disputes and law firm break-ups.