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Education of a Negotiator

Wendeen will walk to class, unassisted.

Last December I decided to pursue a graduate degree program that most people I know, have never heard of; it is a Masters of Legal Studies (MLS). The motivating force was a post-accident renewal program. Eight months after being hit by a taxi, I plunked down a $600 “commitment deposit” to Washington University Law School, for a predominantly online program with intermittent “immersion” credits obtained on campus, in Saint Louis, Missouri. 

My over-arching goal is to re-think negotiation and decision strategies–in which I purport to be an expert–through the lens of an adult student. I expect to acquire a boatload of new ideas for masterful negotiations and decisions– to optimize talent.

Drop-out changes the scene.

In my early twenties, I intended to make a big splash as a Ph.D. student, but I got sidetracked–frightened by financial pressures that come with three toddlers in tow. So, I disregarded my freshly minted BA degree with philosophy and psychology as my intended brand and hunkered down at blackjack tables with a computer program, until I could win pretty consistently. And, just in case I blew my growing wad, I also took up residence as a cocktail waitress at the best cocktail lounge in town. Dreams of a graduate degree fell by the wayside with my undefended thesis that predicted exponential growth of the legal profession.
I did not complain or explain my decision to concentrate on a business plan with the sketchy further education of a blackjack counter, hatchick, and “stand-in” model with the figure, paycheck, and title of a bunny.

At twenty-four, I took the plunge with a pitch for funding of the first search firm exclusively for practicing lawyers. My preparation was a mix of chutzpah, moxie and perfected deep breathing to control worries of rejection and $1800 of cold cash savings to contribute to the venture. But failure was never an option!

At twenty-four I scored seed money to begin my march into the world of law and business to form a global footprint in the optimization of legal talent; searches, coaching, counsel selection, and legal marketplace consulting services. And, I continue to thrive with an unquenched thirst to keep learning– on multiple levels.  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 the active pursuit of my core belief in rebirth and improved renewal–no matter the immediate challenges.

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 the squadron of Secret Service agents that descended upon me.  Following my luncheon, I had crossed the street uneventfully.  At the crosswalk, I hailed a cab. My hand attracted two drivers; apparently, they both saw me as drop-dead gorgeous!  Both drivers were eager for a 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 hand and wrist along with the crushed bones in my leg, ankle, and foot.  Scores of police officers  assembled in the street, to rule out a vehicular terror attack while a team of EMTs began to fit me 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. My prospects for a full recovery looked pretty grim after the first emergent procedure.  I eyeballed the fat temporary dressing that extended down my leg, to the tip of my toes.  The IV bottle was driping an opioid into the veins to control the pain.  I took up the position of a lookout– for any scrap of good news. ,

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.

There was plenty of reason to fret,  but my refusal to acknowledge the precarious uncertainty about next steps brought a moment of peace.  I thanked the trauma team, for their handy update, and thanked my lucky stars I could 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 a future return to school.  Once home from the hospital—with my leg, ankle, and foot successfully fused and repaired, I made up my mind to push forward with plans to enroll in the  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, until July 2019.

Master of my destiny!

On January 1, celebrated a Happy New Year. I have graduated from wheelchair to walker a good part of the time.   Soon I expect to meet clients at venues of their choice, as often as do breakfast meetings at a nearby breakfast haunt,  steps from my home.

By spring, I plan to fly off for a vacation, before hunkering down —at the World Series of Poker,  cooking up a storm for family and friends, and meandering    onto  the dance floor with salsa, swing, or tango partners or at ping-pong tables with my a college days spin from 10 feet back.  And,  I know the decision to drink in further education in studies at WashU ensures the best is yet to come.