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Post Prompts Apology; Apology Prompts Praise

In a post last week entitled "Best 'Elevator Pitch' Ever...?" legal marketer Larry Bodine related the elevator pitch of a lawyer he described as "the silver-haired senior-most litigator" at a law firm in Joliet, Ill. The lawyer's pitch involved a Holocaust "joke" that Bodine himself now describes as "anti-Semitic and repellent." Readers of his blog complained about the post in comments and phone calls. Bodine responded to their concerns, deleting the post and replacing it with an apology. "I sincerely apologize for the crude and offensive 'Elevator Pitch' post I put online last week," he wrote in part. "In the clear light of morning, it is clear that it was anti-Semitic and repellent. I want to thank all the people who commented and called me about it; I listened and took what you said to heart."

Bodine's apology earned high praise from Victoria Pynchon at Settle it Now Negotiation Blog, not just as a lesson in blogging etiquette, but as a broader reminder to lawyers of the power of an apology. Bodine, she notes, "did not simply say 'I'm sorry.' He removed the admittedly offensive post; disowned it; and, empathized with those who found it offensive by sharing his own family's WWII imprisonment story." An apology can be a powerful tool, she suggests, one that attorneys too often make light of.

The point is that we all trespass on the feelings of others; those feelings are critical to our connection with one another; our connection with one another is fundamental to our individual well-being and our survival as a species; the urge toward reconciliation is therefore natural, as are our desire to be forgiven, our spontaneous expressions of remorse, our attempt to explain and normalize our bad behavior (we are all fallible and we have all suffered harm)  and our fellows' willingness to forgive, particularly when we bare ourselves and our histories to one another in the course of our effort to re-establish what joins us and to move beyond that which divides us.

It is a lesson, Pynchon believes, that all lawyers should learn. "And for that lesson," she adds, "we owe thanks to Larry Bodine."

I should add that my colleague here at Legal Blog Watch picked up on Bodine's original post and wrote about it here, initially with praise but then quickly realizing and apologizing for its offensive content. 

Posted by Robert J. Ambrogi on November 19, 2008 at 02:43 PM | Permalink | Comments (2)


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