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Journal of the Institute for the Study of Legal Ethics

Publication Date

1-1-1999

Introduction

Roy Simon's introduction of me reminds me of the old joke by Groucho Marx who said, "That was a fine introduction; I don't really deserve it. Of course, I have lumbago, and I don't deserve that either." It is, indeed, a pleasure to be here at Hofstra this evening and particularly to have this return engagement. As I was flying out here I was trying to think-as I sometimes do when called upon to speak-of some appropriate metaphor to set up my remarks. While I was walking around with my head in the clouds (actually in the process of boarding Delta Airlines), I took a quick glance at my ticket so I would know where my seat was. I began walking and finally made my way down the congested aisle. I got to seat 25A and noticed that it was occupied by a young woman. So I said to her, "Excuse me, are you in 25A?" She looked at me with total certainty and said, "Yes, indeed, I am in 25A. This is my seat." And I thought for a minute, "Oh well, I guess I'd better look again."

I pulled out my ticket, checked it and noticed that because I did not have my glasses on - a mistake that I won't make this afternoon - that I was actually to be in 25E. I immediately took the seat across the aisle, got myself comfortable, and began looking at some papers.

About this time two individuals walked up to me and said, "Excuse me sir; you are in our seats," and I said "I am in 25E." "Yes we know," they said "25E is the aisle in front."

So I said, "Oh, excuse me."

By this time I was a little flustered. I got up, sat in the next row, again made myself comfortable. And then I began to notice that as the people came onto the airplane behind me there was a lot of confusion. People were sitting in the aisle and they were jumping up and getting into another aisle. They were stepping across, etc. And there was an elderly gentlemen who actually had to move three times before he finally got his seat.

I couldn't figure out what it was, and then I looked across the aisle from my 25E and I noticed that the row across was 24. I thought, "This is odd." Delta airlines has spent a lot of money putting together an airline, telling the people that they are serving the public, trying to make it comfortable for us, and they didn't think enough to design their seating in such a way that row 25 would be the same row on both sides on the plane. And then it came to me. I thought, you know, maybe that's where we are with professionalism.

Maybe our problem is that we know where we want to go in some broad sense - we know what that destination is - but we are not at all sure about whether we are going to get there with any sense of comfort. We are not at all sure that, when each of us individually decides what professionalism is, that we are really going to find out at the end of the day that we're ready to stand up for that or in my case sit down for that.

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