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Tom Watson's Lessons for Lawyers

Tom Watson In the Boston area where I live, we pounce on beautiful days like someone wandering the desert does a sudden oasis. But on the particularly bright and sunny Sunday that just passed, I could not tear myself away from the TV, mesmerized as I was by the drama of 59-year-old golfer Tom Watson's drive toward possible victory in the British Open. It was not to be, the world now knows, but this year's Open championship will forever be remembered not for the winner, but for the improbable story of the man who almost won.

We can all find lessons and inspiration in Watson's story. But are there lessons of particular applicability to the legal profession? Wondering this, I turned to the blawgs in search of answers. Somewhat surprisingly, I actually found some.

One thoughtful post, What Tom Watson Teaches Us About Business and Practicing Law, comes from John L. Watkins, a partner with Chorey, Taylor & Feil in Atlanta. Watkins finds several lessons for lawyers. One is that doing what you do, and doing it well, can sometimes be reward enough. "Watson has reminded us to stay in the game, to enjoy what we do, and to relish the chances -- few as they may be -- to do something really special in our chosen business or profession."

Another is that experience counts:

Watching Watson hit smart shot after smart shot in difficult and differing conditions -- taking his medicine when necessary -- shows the advantage of over 30 years of experience in playing links golf. Even in athletics -- where youth must be served -- experience still counts for something. This is even more so in business and law.

Another rumination on Watson comes from Mark Wahlstrom, president of a structured settlement company, writing at The Settlement Channel. For Wahlstrom, a key lesson is not to give up on opportunity and hope. "Take a tip from Tom Watson, who whether he wins or loses, will have set an example that age, physical limitations and the expectations of others are no excuse for just showing up and mailing it in," he writes. "Develop a plan. Expect it to work. Execute the plan and get up on the leader board instead of showing up for the free sleeve of golf balls and a couple of drinks in life."

The only other legal blog post I found about Watson came from Tom Kirkendall at Houston's Clear Thinkers. He was less philosophical, choosing instead to quote the tweet of Golf Digest writer Dan Jenkins, who looked at Watson's feat from a different perspective: "I was Watson's age 20 years ago -- still drinking a lot, practically buying Elaine's. I thought I was immortal. What's the big deal about 59?"

Heck, if Watson were a Supreme Court justice instead of a pro golfer, we'd consider him a kid. Still, it was less his age than his drive that I found inspiring -- his belief coming into the championship that he could win and his presence of mind to make it happen -- almost. Watson gives new meaning to that old saying, "It doesn't matter whether you win or lose, it's how you play the game." And that is a lesson worth remembering for lawyers as much as for athletes.

[Photo source: / CC BY 2.0]

Posted by Robert J. Ambrogi on July 21, 2009 at 10:24 AM | Permalink | Comments (3)


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