Posted on

A Negotiator Can Never be Over-Educated

Yesterday I took a decision that carries a sharp reminder: out of problems come opportunities. I am about to pursue a graduate degree program that most people I know, have never heard of; it is a Master of Legal Studies (MLS). An accident of fate was the motivating force to plunk down my $600 commitment deposit at Washington University Law School for this predominantly online program that will allow me intermittent “immersion” credits on campus, in Saint Louis, Missouri.  My over-arching goal is to look at negotiation and decision strategies–in which I purport to be an expert–through the lens of an adult law student, approaching legal studies as a tool for business.  As a result of interactions with classmates and professors, I also expect to acquire a boatload of new ideas for masterful negotiations and decisions– to optimize talent.

Drop-out returns to the scene.

In my early twenties, I intended to make a big splash as a Ph.D. student, but I got sidetracked and frightened by financial pressures.  So, I hunkered down at blackjack tables with a computer program, until I could win, consistently.  Just in case I blew my growing wad, I also took up residence as a cocktail waitress at the best tipping lounge in town. Dreams of a graduate degree fell by the wayside.  Satisfied with a nearly completed thesis (undefended), I did not complain or explain. Instead, I relied on my faith. I adopted a dash of chutzpah, a bit of moxie, took a deep breath, and confidently presented myself to towering figures in the legal profession– with a business plan of sorts.

The outcome: I scored seed money and founded EOLIS as the first attorney search firm when I was 24.  I have since expanded the business to form a global footprint in the optimization of legal talent; searches, coaching, counsel selection, and legal marketplace consulting services. With fifty years of experience behind me, I still love the business.  I have also come full circle, and then some, in the unquenched thirst to keep learning. I am ready to roll at WashU Law School.

At 74, I expect to be on the high side of the age curve of curious and motivated adults who see this program as a potential boon to their lives. For years I have toyed with the idea of returning to school. Until this year, I had no defined purpose other than reversing inner misgivings about previously ditching graduate studies. But, following a freak accident, last May, I had to find my way back to optimism and active pursuit of my core belief: the best is yet to come.  An unimaginable calamity planted powerful seeds for enforced renewal!

What a crash! 

On May 2, 2018, my life changed in an instant.  One minute I was dining in a beautiful restaurant with a client, and the next minute I was lying in the street, on Fifth Avenue, a stone’s throw from Trump Tower and a squadron of Secret Service agents.  Following my luncheon, I crossed the street uneventfully.  I was a pedestrian at a crosswalk, hailing a cab. My hand attracted two drivers; apparently, they both saw me as drop-dead gorgeous!  For sure, both drivers wanted the fare. The one in the middle lane cut off the driver in the left lane, as he was approaching me.  The driver in the left lane protected his car by swerving into me.

Just before I dropped to the ground for a brief nap, I must have attempted to punch out the taxi medallion seal on the hood of the car.  This is my only explanation for a fractured writing hand and wrist along with the crushed bones in my leg, ankle, and foot.  I was semi-conscious when a Secret Service agent arrived on the scene, assuring me an ambulance was on the way. Meanwhile, scores of police officers were assembling in the street. They had yet to rule out a vehicular terror attack.  I had yet to be fitted with back, neck, and head braces for the trip to New York Hospital-Cornell Weill’s Trauma Center.

Suddenly, my life was upended– with fear of near-term mortality like never previously experienced in my life. My mind flashed back to earlier in the spring when I decided, on a lark, to apply for WASHU Law School ‘s MLS program.  I was in the middle of the application process at the time of the accident. In a split second, my evolving game plan for a further education crashed; it was up to me to put myself on a viable new path.

My prospects for a full recovery looked pretty grim after the first emergent procedure.  I eyeballed the fat heavy temporary dressing that extended down my leg, to the tip of my toes.  The IV bottle that disbursed an opioid into the veins to control the pain was doing less than a stellar job. My vaguely aching fractured writing hand seemed like a non-event by comparison.  On the lookout for any scrap of good news, I kept asking the trauma team for updates on my condition.

Finally, there were smiles all around me. The head, neck, and back braces that had constrained me for hours were about to come off. There were NO back, head or neck injuries. The chief surgeon then returned to a discussion of next steps, explaining that further surgeries were needed, but that I was inoperable for the time being; I would have to tough it out for a couple of weeks.

It pays to recognize good news.

I had plenty of reason to fear the possible loss of my leg, and at the minimum, complicated procedures including major bone grafts, but my refusal to acknowledge the precarious uncertainty about next steps brought a moment of peace.  I thanked the trauma team, for the initial update, and thanked my lucky stars for allowing me to continue to use my brain.

While waiting for further news about additional surgeries, I  hi-jacked part of a  family collection of Easton Press’ Greatest Books; I re-read 3 favorite literary classics and pondered school days past and possibilities of returning to school–someday.  But once home from the hospital—awith my leg, ankle, and foot successfully fused and repaired, I made up my mind to push forward with plans to enroll n an MLS program at WashU.

Eight weeks ago, I bought the law book required for my first course, even though I knew I would have to defer my start date, a second time.  I knew I was on the cusp of readiness!

Master of my destiny!

On January 1, 2019, I’ll be celebrating a Happy New Year. I have graduated from wheelchair to walker a good part of the time. On January 14, 2019,  I start classes.  Soon I expect to meet clients at venues of their choice, as often as my favorite breakfast haunt, a few hundred steps from my home.  By spring, I plan to fly out to the WASHU campus-for my first “immersion weekend.” And in a matter of months, I expect to be back in the game—at the World Series of Poker, when not cooking up a storm for family and friends.  Come next year, look for me on the dance floor with salsa, swing, or tango partners or at ping-pong tables with my college days spin from 10 feet back. And,  I know t the decision to drink in further education ensures the best is yet to come.