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Why Travel Makes You a Better Lawyer

By Theda C. Snyder

Among the many benefits of traveling is how it helps us appreciate different facets of an issue. 

2020 has been a real downer. One way I lift my spirits is by viewing those nonstop emails and websites offering fabulous trips at incredibly low prices. Tour companies want our money now for travel in 2021 and 2022.

I’ve been to 42 states, three U.S. territories and 38 countries, including every Canadian province; and, as the late Anthony Bourdain used to say, I’m hungry for more. I have well-traveled West Coast friends who have been to more countries than I but have never visited Chicago, let alone Nashville, Kansas City or Arkansas’ Hot Springs National Park.

You Need an Open Mind

Travel expert Rick Steves differentiates between tourists, who scurry around to see iconic sights and promptly leave, and travelers, who approach destinations with a positive attitude, a willingness to try new things, and a readiness to embrace the diversity of life.

Travel exercises that part of the brain that lets you appreciate the differences among us. Keeping an open mind is important for lawyers to be able to see every facet of an issue. This helps you anticipate risks to better represent your client.

Find Places With Attitudes Different From Yours

Many of us stay in our comfort zone, confident that our lifestyle is the best in the world. Travel lets you experience different cultures and overcome biases. Try to interact with people not in the hospitality industry. Attending local festivals and participating in volunteer experiences are good ways to meet them.

Writer Charles Fleming recently wrote that travel helped him overcome the ethnic prejudices he learned from schoolyard jokes.

What comes to mind when you think of Mississippi? Probably not the Natchez Trace Parkway winding through a beautiful forest.

A 2016 tour of Ohio’s many presidential museums, historic homes, monuments and the First Ladies’ museum plus the Pro Football Hall of Fame might have led the pundits to better predict the presidential election outcome had they glanced at the lawn signs in cities like Marion and Canton.

According to the United Nations World Happiness Report, Finland is the happiest country in the world, in large part due to its strong social safety net. The U.S. comes in 18th in happiness. Immaculate Switzerland is the wealthiest country in the world. The U.S. comes in fifth. Ritzy Monaco has the longest life expectancy in the world at 89.27. The U.S. comes in 54th at 79.5. I bring along my prescriptions when I travel abroad. An ointment my dermatologist prescribed costs me $600 in the United States; I bought it in Portugal in February for about $32. The rest of the world’s democracies are appalled that in order to vote in person U.S. citizens take time off work and stand in line for hours.

A World of Other Viewpoints

Too often as lawyers, we close ourselves off from seeing the big picture, sometimes due to unrecognized bias. Working with blinders on can lead to a lack of civility. The best negotiators are able to see all the issues and craft solutions that deliver the highest possible level of satisfaction to all parties. Of course, you have a duty to represent your client zealously, but you also have a duty to dispassionately advise your client. Empathy is the ability to see another point of view, even if you disagree with it. Travel can help develop that.

Mark Twain said, “Travel is fatal to bigotry, prejudice and narrowmindedness.” When we finally get through this pandemic, plan to get outside your bubble to see a different point of view. Meantime, enjoy the travel porn.

Photo © by Kira auf der Heide on Unsplash

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Theda C. Snyder

Theda “Teddy” Snyder mediates civil disputes, workers’ compensation and insurance coverage cases, including COVID-19 related coverage disputes, in person or by video. Teddy has practiced in a variety of settings and frequently speaks and writes about settlements and the business of law. She was a Fellow of the College of Law Practice Management and is the author of four ABA books, including “Women Rainmakers’ Best Marketing Tips, 3rd Edition” as well as “Personal Injury Case Evaluation” available on Amazon.com. Based in Los Angeles, Teddy can be found at SnyderMediations.com and on Twitter @SnyderMediation.

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