judge david langham 240538639

The Postman Rings?

judge david langham 240538639

It all started when some fellow from the federal government showed up at my office. We were initially surprised and somewhat taken aback. He explained that response is not uncommon. He was here to bring us something called "mail." This involves someone putting pen to paper, applying a stamp and address, and providing this all to the government. They truck the paper all over the place, sort it, and then deliver it. Right to your door, I kid you not. 

It became apparent to me from my conversation that this fellow does this on a daily basis. There are apparently some people that do a lot of this paper sending. He explained that much of it is "junk" and that it should not concern us if we do not see him for long periods. Somehow, the fellow looked like Kevin Costner to me, but I cannot place why. 

Facetious? Guilty. 

But, the Postman does not always ring twice (great title, but the film is not even about mail, go figure). It is rare that we see a Postman at all. The days of paper are behind us. Us dinosaurs lament it, but we understand it nonetheless. 

What did the Postman deliver? 

I had received an email several weeks back. A law school was having a competition for first-year students. They were delivering closing arguments in a mock trial setting. They wanted volunteer judges, and I am a sucker for students. So, I clicked to volunteer. 

That was a lesson in itself. I learned about an app that lets me read shared spreadsheets on my phone. I learned how to make alterations to this sheet in the cloud, and add my name to the volunteer list. I am struggling with evolving technology, but it is so worthwhile to be challenged and to learn. The young people running that competition forced me to grow. God bless them.

I tuned in as instructed, scored the round, and took some time to provide feedback. Both of the competitors were well prepared, and had memorized their material. Both were somewhat nervous and seemed to dislike the virtual experience a bit. Each was outstanding overall but had some elements that might benefit from some further work. In all, I was impressed, proud, and encouraged.

That was weeks ago. This was in early April. The experience had slipped my mind after a few days. I remembered to wonder a couple of times if one of the students I mentored had progressed or even prevailed. But, it was all soon relegated to the warehouse in the back of my head as new challenges took on my daily attention. 

Then this Postman showed up out of the blue. The envelope (a contrivance of paper folded and pasted for the sole purpose of containing and conveying another piece of paper) was addressed by hand, in cursive, with an ink pen. That was intriguing. It contained a simple card with a reminder of the "1L closing argument competition." It said "your feedback was very encouraging and I am very grateful." 

You guessed it, it made my day. 

The week after, this Postman showed up again. This second envelope had my name printed on it, in ink. They say many young people do not write in cursive anymore. I get it. Where were the anti-cursive forces when I was in school? This one was a pre-printed "Thank You." Inside it acknowledge my volunteering and said "I found your advice to be helpful," and closed with "thank you."

I doubt either of those cards took more than 2 minutes. I suspect that in their own day-to-day neither of those students will look back much on the 30 minutes we all spent together on Zoom. I doubt sincerely that I provided any real wisdom that will alter the trajectories of two young lives. In short, they each did more for me than I did for them.

That said, there is a glimmer in the dark recesses of my mind. I am hopeful that they wrote because they deemed it the right thing to do (not just because someone said to). I am grateful that someone likely did suggest it; that means that teaching is not dead and law school is doing more than teach technical and analytics. Courtesy, you see my friend, matters. Cordial and careful communication is a powerful tool.

I was deeply touched by the occurrences, the deliveries of these notes. I was impressed that someone would take the time to say "thank you." I was enthused (again) that tomorrow's leaders are showing such promise, poise, and persistence. I was pleased and compelled to write this down. 

How much can you accomplish with a "thank you?" How much can you do with a simple card? What does it say about you when you take the time? Our focus this year has been on professionalism. I experience it every day, and hope you do also. But, these two examples are noteworthy, empowering, and special. I hope every one of us learns a lesson from their example. I have sent a link to this post to the Dean of that school. It is my hope that every dean is receiving similar positive feedback recognizing those who will replace us all, and the careful hands that guide them. 

By Judge David Langham

Courtesy of Florida Workers' Comp

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    About The Author

    • Judge David Langham

      David Langham is the Deputy Chief Judge of Compensation Claims for the Florida Office of Judges of Compensation Claims at the Division of Administrative Hearings. He has been involved in workers’ compensation for over 25 years as an attorney, an adjudicator, and administrator. He has delivered hundreds of professional lectures, published numerous articles on workers’ compensation in a variety of publications, and is a frequent blogger on Florida Workers’ Compensation Adjudication. David is a founding director of the National Association of Workers’ Compensation Judiciary and the Professional Mediation Institute, and is involved in the Southern Association of Workers’ Compensation Administrators (SAWCA) and the International Association of Industrial Accident Boards and Commissions (IAIABC). He is a vocal advocate of leveraging technology and modernizing the dispute resolution processes of workers’ compensation.

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