Monday, October 9, 2006

WHY LAWYERS SHOULD SURF

Why Lawyers Should Surf (co-authored with Dr Michelle Tempest) is now available on amazon (for £7.99 incl p&p). Extracts from the book can be found below this post. To read reviews of the book, click on the following links or see below.







The Independent, 9/1/08: "makes a strong case for [surfing] being a productive metaphor of our immersion in time and space...give[s] you the mental equivalent of a perfect day at Sunset Beach, Hawaii", Andy Martin, author of Stealing the Wave.

The Times Online, 12/8/08: "a song for the modern age which could well become a cult classic like perhaps Anne Morrow Lindbergh Gift From the Sea", Tom Anderson, author of Riding the Magic Carpet.

The Times Online, 28/3/08: "a passionate call for professionals to de-stress themselves by gliding on a few turquoise walls", Alex Wade, author, Surf Nation.

Irish Independent, 28/8/08: "We drown out our inner voice with noise - from the office, the high street, the internet, TV. Out on the waves there is no noise, just you and the sea." Marie Boran, Marie Boran, Irish Net Visionary Awards Journalist of the Year 2008.

Drift Magazine, issue 5, 2008: "If you want to get excited about life, discover your own power and find peace of mind, then give this a go. Oh, and it's not one of those books about blaming your mother."

Slide Magazine, 2008: "Kevan and Tempest use the metaphor of surfing and the ocean throughout this book to discuss methods in which they can better communicate and improve their lives through employing the glass 'half-full' approach." Alison Aprhys, journalist.

DailyStoke.com, 27/9/08: "I was hooked from the get go...essential reading not simply for lawyers or other professionals but for surfers of every stripe who are seeking to understand how to better live their lives."

Swordplay, 3/8/08: "A motivational and erudite read with plenty of esoteric material on surfing"

NSW Law Society Journal, 8/08: "one does not need to be a surfer, or a lawyer, to appreciate and enjoy the well-written, humorous and enjoyable examples and suggestions the authors make...The book makes you feel like working smarter and going surfing, or whatever activity provides a release for you." Stephen Titus, solicitor.

YouClaim News, 2008: "uplifting, inspirational stuff, and well-informed, too"

ITV Local, 27/8/08: "Everybody wants to live the dream - but very few of us actually achieve it...Not so Tim Kevan, who at...36 retired from his barrister job, moved to North Devon to surf, and got a book deal with Bloomsbury. Nice work! Tim Kevan, we...salute you as Meridian Blog Pillar of the Community!"

Legal Week, 8/1/07: "With its thousands-strong cast of colourful characters, there is no shortage of distinctive voices at the Bar...One of the more unique voices [sic] is that of One Temple Gardens personal injury specialist and chronicler of our times Tim Kevan, prolific author and mastermind behind The Barrister Blog...Kevan's online journal offers an unlikely but strangely captivating blend of legal analysis and quasi-philosophical musings on his other great passion...surfing."


The Independent, 9/1/08
Why Lawyers Should Surf, by Tim Kevan and Michelle Tempest
How riding the waves can be the ultimate stress-buster
Reviewed by Andy Martin

If anyone had asked me before I read this book why lawyers should surf, I would have said that they would feel right at home with the sharks. The more enlightened and benevolent logic of Tim Kevan and Michelle Tempest is that lawyers and other stressed-out souls can get an infusion of wisdom by imitating the spirit of God and "moving upon the face of the waters".

Surfing is so difficult that it's hard to think of anything else while you're doing it. It's virtually impossible to worry about taxes as a monster wave comes hurtling towards you (although the question of death does arise). It concentrates the mind wonderfully. I suspect that there is something in the neurochemistry of surfing that induces a more contemplative, even transcendental, outlook.

Kevan, a London-based barrister, has truly seen the light and gone off to live and surf in Devon. The clever thing about the book he has written with his psychiatrist co-author, Tempest, is that even if it doesn't persuade you, in the middle of winter, to whip off your kit and get wet, it does give you the mental equivalent of a perfect day at Sunset Beach, Hawaii. I am generally averse to motivational books, probably because they reduce me to a sort of Pavlovian dog that can be easily trained. The beauty of this book is that, even as it suggests ways of fixing my "neuro-linguistic programming", it subtly restores a sense of poetry and enables me to "hear the mighty waters rolling evermore". Kevan and Tempest, like Wordsworth, address the soul-surfer in us all.

Jean Baudrillard, philosopher of the media age, assumed that all surfing was virtual – a product of the internet – and anything else just a Hollywood-engineered myth. Why Lawyers Should Surf not only reminds us that surfing is real, and feasible, but makes a strong case for it being a productive metaphor of our immersion in time and space. I don't know if it is going to make me a better surfer (it may be too late), but I am hopeful that I could become a better human being. And if the waters keep on rising, our souls really will have sight of Wordsworth's immortal sea, "though inland far we be", and surfing could turn out to be the key to survival.


The Times Online, 12/8/08
by Alex Wade and Tom Anderson

Meanwhile, why should lawyers surf? Having been one, I'd say that the answer is that if they don't, when they finally return to live once again by the coast they'll be condemned to languish forever in the intermediate zone, sometimes getting it right, sometimes getting it wrong. But Tim Kevan, author of a book cunningly entitled Why Lawyers Should Surf, begs to differ. He's quit briefs in the City for clean lines at Lynemouth, and his book is reviewed below by Tom Anderson, a Welshman who had many scrapes with the lawyers (not least, a night out with me which we somehow both survived) but never became one. Instead he leapt straight to being a writer and surfer, penning the much-acclaimed Riding the Magic Carpet. I'm not jealous, honest, so without further ado, here's Tom review.

From the days of the Hawaiian kings to the present, surfing has always captured people's imagination and managed to take them out of their day to day lives. It is uplifting and spiritual and provides a connection with nature and forces greater than ourselves. So it seems only natural when the authors point to surfing as a way of helping cope with the stresses of modern living and of re-gaining some balance in life.

Why Lawyers Should Surf is written by a former barrister and a psychiatrist. I particularly liked the way they avoided the cheesy, self-satisfied tone that instantly puts me off most motivational books, which too often come across as some sort of instruction booklet for life but which forget the art and lose sight of the soul. This book on the other hand not only provides an extremely clear and accessible introduction to cutting-edge techniques for getting one's mind into shape but it also provides a context. It stresses the need to feed the soul and listen to your own heart just as surfers monitor the movements of the ocean.

The use of the metaphor of surfing works surprisingly well. It not only taps into the inherent power of the sea but also has the benefit of resonating with those who have perhaps previously only ever surfed the internet. What's more, the book subtly introduces the reader to a wide mix of literary, scientific and spiritual sources. As a surfer I particularly liked the enormous range of the quotations and reflections on the meaning of surfing itself and our almost primeval connection with the sea. (In many ways it is a song for the modern age which could well become a cult classic like perhaps Anne Morrow Lindbergh's Gift from the Sea.

As for the reference to lawyers, it is clear that they are simply being used as an example of the work-shackled majority who perhaps yearn for something more in their lives. Certainly it applies across the board to anyone looking for inspiration. The tone throughout is authentic and a nice footnote is that since co-writing the book Tim Kevan has indeed walked the talk and given up the trappings of the bar for the surf of North Devon. He is now living in Braunton and writing a novel for Bloomsbury Publishing. That's what I'm talking about!

Spot on for surfers, lawyers and anyone else looking for inspiration.


The Times Online, 28/3/08
by Alex Wade

During my Wrecking Machine phase, I was a lawyer (that's two plugs of your first book. I'll let you off because it's your birthday. Ed.). This was a profession whose intellectual aspects always intrigued me but whose rigmarole wasn't my thing. At all. Today I'm off to interview a lawyer I met in the line-up at Freights yesterday, this for a weekly slot on lawyers with interests outside the law (which today features sometime contributor to this blog and Perranporth surfboat rower Andy Cox). The Bajan lawyer's name is Barry Gale and watching him surf yesterday put me in mind of Tim Kevan's book, 'Why Lawyers Should Surf'. Kevan's book is a passionate call for professionals to destress themselves by gliding on a few turquoise walls. Kevan, with co-author Michelle Tempest, makes more than a few nods to the Romantic notion of the sublime, a trait that he shares with many writers on surfing (though to my knowledge, Kevan is the first writer to co-opt TS Eliot - arch-modernist and poet of despair - in favour of surfing). While avowedly a motivational book Why Lawyers Should Surf contains many fascinating curios on surfing and makes me wonder whether, if I'd been surfing as much as I'd wanted to do during my legal (illegal) days, I might have avoided the Wrecking Machine phase.


Irish Independent, 28/8/08
Blog Digest
By Marie Boran

Stop. Breathe. Relax. It’s summertime and everywhere I look people are working hard and not stopping to smell the roses (well, come to think of it, the roses are soggy given all the rain we’ve been having). So this week we’re looking at blogs which celebrate slowing down and living in the moment.

The (ex)Barrister Blog
http://timkevan.blogspot.com/
THIS guy was a successful, high-powered barrister for 10 years and then one day simply decided to retire early and spend his days surfing. He even wrote a book about it: Why Lawyers Should Surf.
One thing blogger, Tim Kevan, feels is missing from our modern lives is silence. We drown out our inner voice with noise – from the office, the high street, the internet, TV. Out on the waves there is no noise, just you and the sea.
So, if you’re looking to escape from it all, catch a wave.


Drift Magazine, issue 5, 2008
Why Lawyers Should Surf

Practically written and laid out, this is not a novel but a simple set of rules about how to live your life, using surfing as a metaphor with which to spell out the basics.Whether you live the high life or the slow life, you'll find plenty of information jammed into this comprehensive read. Chicken Soup it isn't; easy to understand guidance in a world of fast-paced technical wizadry it is. Subjects range from how to visualise your goals to tips to building rapport and improving your communcation skills. If you want to get excited about life, discover your own power and find peace of mind, then give this a go. Oh, and it's not one of those books about blaming your mother.


Slide Magazine, 2008
by Alison Aprhys

Written by a barrister and a psychiatrist and with an introduction by a champion boxer, Why Lawyers Should Surf (WLSS) appears to be the love-child of a self-help motivational guide for success in work and life and a marketing exercise to encourage waveriding. Crimewriter P.D.James once said, "Lawyers are intelligent people whose profession is argument", and authors Kevan and Tempest seem to agree. They quote a John Hopkins University study, which found that lawyers in the US suffered four times the average depression rate. deciding that the cynicism that lawyers use so successfully in their professional lives was too often pouring into their private time, causing unnecessary stress, unhappiness and depression, Kevan and Tempest use the metaphor of surfing and the ocean throughout this book to discuss methods in which they can better communicate and improve their lives through employing the glass 'half-full' approach. This is often referred to be surfers as, 'there'll be another wave in a minute mate'. Recently Australian chapters of Surfing Lawyers which bills itself as 'a non-profit organization of attorneys who promote and preserve the lifestyle, causes and concerns of surfers around the world', so there's probably a market in Australia for the book. But if groups like this can change life for the legal profession as we know it, or whether WLSS will cause a flood of solicitors and barrister forgoing golf and buying up longboards is debatable.


DailyStoke.com, 27/9/08
Why Lawyers Should Surf - Book Review
by Mike Arnot

I’ve recently stumbled upon a very interesting and unique book where surfing is a…err…groundswell…throughout. The book, titled Why Lawyers Should Surf is written by Tim Kevan, a British surfer (and lawyer, to boot) and Dr. Michelle Tempest, a British shrink. As the title so clearly and un-lawyer-like suggests, the book is less about surfing and more about life. It is a welcome contribution to bookshelves at your local shop filled with tales of “making the drop at Pipeline in the mid-1980s” etc. (As an aside, I think I did a double take the first time I saw the truly beautiful cover, reading it to be Why Lawyers Shouldn’t Surf. There’s your sequel, Mr. Kevan!)

To give readers some context, the book is divided into parts that delve into psychology. The first is Mind Power - which explores how thoughts and visualization determine how we end up living our lives. The second is Communication - which explores ways for more effective communication in all aspects of life, but particularly for those where effective communication is very important. (Notice I haven’t mentioned aerials just yet.) The third is Taking Action - which, to use a surfing metaphor of my own - is the transition from surfing in theory to getting out and paddling for some waves. The final section is about the Work-life balance (perhaps one of the easiest part for a surfer to contemplate, given that even the surfing-lawyers out there must all be working in order to surf. I won’t comment on that.) The strongest part of the book is the first part about Mind Power. This book will help anyone understand how our thoughts and words control of our day to day lives and our own approach to living. How we live is directly correlated with how we choose to think, speak, and believe. It would be impossible for me to cover the complexities of this book in this review - and it is not light reading. That said, I was hooked from the get go. All of those elements in surfing that surfers might take for granted - such as paddling out or waiting in the lineup for seemingly endless minutes - are good metaphors for the times where we can’t get to the beach and are chained to our desk. The book couples the surfing metaphors with inspirational quotes and stories of surfers and non-surfers alike.

Why Lawyers Should Surf is essential reading not simply for lawyers or other professionals but for surfers of every stripe who are seeking to understand how to better live their liges. ”Don’t fight against the rip” might have more to do with your life than you had ever thought. Read the book and judge for yourselves. For surfing fanatics and those interested in improving themselves, you can pick up the book here.


Swordplay, 3/8/08

Surfing and the law go together about as well as Formula 1 and Chelsea basements. Right? Well, no. According to barrister turned blogger/writer Tim Kevan, today’s stressed out lawyers would do well to immerse themselves in what the Hawaiians call ‘the sport of kings’. For Kevan, surfing has a spiritual essence which is the perfect antidote to the high levels of stress and depression found among lawyers. He should know - Kevan recently quit his life as a London personal injury barrister to live by the sea in North Devon, where he regularly surfs. Not many lawyers will necessarily be able to make quite such a radical move, but they might well find themselves inspired by Kevan’s recently published book, Why Lawyers Should Surf. A motivational and erudite read with plenty of esoteric material on surfing and some well-researched pieces on the reality of life as a lawyer.


NSW Law Society Journal, 8/08
A surfing fan says catch a wave
By Stephen Titus (solicitor)

TIM KEVAN IS AN ENGLISH BARRISTER, writer and surfer, and Dr Michelle Tempest is a psychiatrist with a graduate law degree. Their book, aimed at lawyers, legal students and anyone interested in improving their working life with passion, uses the metaphor of surfing to show how to improve their work and achieve a balance with other interests. it succeeds.
All those who surf know the pleasure, connection with nature and sense of timelessness of surfing: the surfer's routine of waiting for the right weather conditiond, being in the right place at the right time, practising, utilising a rip to get out more easily, considering where the waves are breaking, choosing a wave, committing to it and getting the reward.

The authors apply this to the work environment, comparing surfing with preparation for a court case: the perseverance, patience and timely commitment, knowing the facts and law, being bold and committed where necessary, enjoying the process, the rewards and the exhilaration of a job well done.

The legal linkage works well. But one does not need to be a surfer, or a lawyer, to appreciate and enjoy the well-written, humourous and enjoyable examples and suggestions the authors make.

They provide helpful examples for self-improvement and mind power. They advise setting the right course, covering the groundwork, getting into as good a position as possible and making the right choices. They suggest living life with a passion, and balancing the natural world and work.
There are helpful tips on advocacy techniques, body language and the power of words. They talk about utilising communication skills, visualisation, setting goals and building rapport. They make suggestions on dealing with stress and emotions, time management and business development and maintaining a balance with health and leisure.

There are quotes and vignettes from Lou Reed, Thomas Edison, Rudyard Kipling, Rosa Parks and conservationist Rachel Carson, among others. All are thoughtful, some inspiring. Phil Edwards, iconic surfer, is quoted on not fearing the unknown: "To rise to the challenge and see the benefits of taking some risks. To feel alive. To realise that through acts of courage, facing fear, insight can flourish. There are uncounted millions of people who now go through life without any sort of real, vibrant kick ... the answer is surfing."

And Gregory peck, in the role of Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird: "You have to dream, you have to have a vision, then you have to set a goal for yourself that might even scare you a little because sometimes that seems far beyond your reach. Then I think you have to develop a kind of resistance to rejections and to the disappointments that are sure to come your way."

The book makes you feel like working smarter and going surfing, or whatever activity provides a release for you. I have always felt more focused at work after a morning surf. Going surfing gives a clarity to life that other people yearn for.


YouClaim News 2008
Surfing may solve a personal injury lawyer's problems

The life of a personal injury lawyer is a high-pressure one, with the compensation claims under your wing being highly important things in the lives of the claimants who are making them. Perhaps, then, it's no surprise that one highly successful barrister swapped a ten-year career for a surfer's life on the Devon coast.

It's the story of Tim Kevan's book, Why Lawyers Should Surf. Even without knowing his life history, it's easy to guess his opinions on the matter from that title. Then, once you move into the text of the book itself, you get phrases like "The human connection with the ocean is primeval and touches the very depths of our souls", moving into this:
"Surfing is far more than pleasure. It is a connection with nature, the world, with God. Some might say it is love itself. It is a sense of timelessness, of other worldliness yet at the same time as connected to this world as it is possible to be."

This is uplifting, inspirational stuff, and well-informed, too; he brings in Goethe, Eliot and Captain Cook to support his argument, as well as psychology - the last, perhaps, as the book is co-written with an aptly named doctor of psychology for watersports, Dr Michelle Tempest.

Surfing isn't always taken as the simple activity, but as a metaphor for motivation itself for all personal injury lawyers - the sense of self-motivation that is central to any profession is powerfully supported here, and that means it's probably transferable to jobs beyond the law.

There's material on communication skills, goal setting, work-life balance and how to change your life. Not everyone need change their life so profoundly as Kevan, but thinking about how your life could change for the better can often be a good thing.

Andy Martin's review in the Independent begins with a joke - "If anyone had asked me before I read this book why lawyers should surf, I would have said that they would feel right at home with the sharks." But he, too, comes round to the book's persuasive message.

But there's more to the choice of lawyers being the ones that need to surf than it having been one author's profession; the other author argues from her psychological perspective that the personality traits of a successful personal injury lawyer can, in fact, be harmful in life outside the world of compensation claims.

These include a tendency to pessimism, which can help perceive the weak points that opposing lawyers may attack in, say, a work accident claim, but may not go down so well in the pub after work. Similarly, their 'high-dominance' characteristics are very useful in the verbal battle of a claim, but less so in the friendlier world outside. However, it's true that characteristics like these can be found outside the profession.

If you're interested in reading more about the book, there are excerpts on Kevan's blog, where the book is also available for purchase. Or you could simply skip that part and go surfing.


ITV Local, 27/8/08
Pillar of the Community – Tim Kevan
Written by Jack

Everybody wants to live the dream – but very few of us actually achieve it, and so often spend weeks/months/years grumbling about how things should change – without actually doing anything about it. Not so Tim Kevan, who at the relatively tender age of 36 retired from his barrister job, moved to North Devon to surf, and got a book deal with Bloomsbury.

Nice work!

His first literary outing, ‘Why Lawyer’s should Surf: Inspiration for Lawyers at work’, is a collection of inspirational writings that examine a variety of areas of the mind and body.

Receiving a number of positive reviews from the press, you can read a whole heap of extracts from the book over on Tim’s blog. Of which the snippet below is one of my favourites.

“Billy Hamilton, one of the great surfers of the 1960s and step-father of big wave surfer Laird Hamilton said, “To become the energy of the waves, that’s the main idea. You take when the water gives, and you give when the water takes.”

Now he is working on his second book, a novel, and despite much probing from our good selves, he has convinced us that Bloomsbury are keeping everything under wraps, and can’t send even a snippet - even though it’s now in the final stages of tidying up. A shame indeed, but fear not literary fans, as we shall certainly keep you up to date with Tim’s progress.

Meanwhile – he’ll be spending his days at the beach, riding the waves and generally having a great time… Sickening isn’t it!

Tim Kevan, we nevertheless salute you as Meridian Blog’s Pillar of the Community!

Legal Week, 8/1/07
Daily DiaryYour one-stop gossip shop
Surfin' DLA at the great barrister reef

Posted by legalweekblogs.com SU

With its thousands-strong cast of colourful characters, there is no shortage of distinctive voices at the Bar - albeit most of them sharing the same Harrovian elocution and more than a hint of the Home Counties.

One of the more unique voices is that of One Temple Gardens personal injury specialist and chronicler of our times Tim Kevan, prolific author and mastermind behind The Barrister Blog, which you can find here.

Kevan's online journal offers an unlikely but strangely captivating blend of legal analysis and quasi-philosophical musings on his other great passion (along with getting crocked sportsmen a contribution to their Tubigrip) - surfing.

Certainly there are few other places where an in-depth discussion of class in the Bar's esoteric clerking system appears side by side with deeply personal jottings on the "timelessness" and "otherworldliness" of the wave-chasing existence.

In a post co-authored by his magnificently-named fiancé, Dr Michelle Tempest (who The Diary had previously thought was the love-interest in a Bond movie), Kevan outlines how surfing can broaden the mind and, by extension, improve advocacy. The essay will appear as part of the duo's forthcoming opus, 'Why Lawyers Should Surf'.

Noble stuff indeed, although the title does rather call to mind the old joke that begins 'What do you call 4,000 lawyers at the bottom of the ocean?'.

Extracts from 'Why Lawyers Should Surf'

For specific extracts, click on the following links or continue reading below:

Metaphor of surfing
Learning from mistakes
Power of words
Taking risks
Power of metaphor
Emotions: heartbeat of soul
Limitations of goal-setting
Concepts of time
Ideas of happiness
Effect of natural world
Role of silence
Environment: dancing on the brink of the world
Our relationship to the ocean
Why Lawyers are in danger

This is what the publishers say: "Lawyers need motivating. As with all intelligent human beings, the best motivation is self-motivation. After many years without an original and empathetic book, we now have a strikingly original one written for practitioners. With the metaphor of surfing and the ocean flowing throughout, the authors have drawn on their collective experience and brought together not only some powerful psychological tools but a beautiful collection of ideas and images which will continue to inspire long after the first reading. The first section deals with the power of the mind and examines visualizations, underlying beliefs and one’s own internal language. It then goes on to examine communication skills ranging from the building of rapport and body language to advocacy techniques. This is followed by a section on goal setting, values and ways in which positive changes can be made fast and effectively in all areas of one’s life. Finally, there is a section on work/life balance focusing on various aspects of health and leisure. Why Lawyers Should Surf is aimed at lawyers, legal students, staff working in legal offices and anyone interested in improving their lot and living their lives with passion."

Metaphor of surfing

This is an extract from Why Lawyers Should Surf co-authored with Dr Michelle Tempest which is now available on Waterstone's website here or can be ordered from XPL Publishing on 0870 079 8897 (p&p is included). Further extracts can be found here. To see a review of the book in The Independent click here.

As to the title why lawyers should surf, it is hoped that this metaphor will help to illustrate some of the points made in a way which is outside of the lawyer’s day to day experience. Its use has obviously become particularly prevalent in the modern world as a result of its association with computers and internet surfing. However, the connection to surfing, waves and the deep ocean beyond goes far beyond such modern inventions.

The human connection with the ocean is primeval and touches the very depths of our souls. Evolutionists might suggest that it has something to do with the fact that all species originated in the sea. Biblical references might be made to the first paragraph of the Bible which says “the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters”, to Noah and the great flood, Moses and the parting of the Red Sea, Jonah and the whale and even Jesus himself walking on water. Psychologists on the other hand might suggest that it is due to our time in the womb or the fact perhaps that like the surface of the earth itself we are made mostly of water. As Goethe put it, “All is born of water; all is sustained by water.” In The Book of Waves, Drew Kampion suggested that we are all drawn to the meeting of the land and the ocean because of the release of energy which happens there: “…where ocean wave meets solid ground and gives up its accumulated life force in a powerful expression of consummation”.

It is not to suggest that any of these reasons are necessarily correct, but simply that there is an almost inexplicable connection. Something which you can’t quite put your finger on, yet is utterly fundamental. This connection may underlie the feeling a surfer gets when riding a wave. However, as with the connection with the ocean, the feeling in many ways diminished when one attempts to put it into words. As far back as 1777, canoe surfing was described in an account of the voyages of Captain James Cook in the following way, “I could not help concluding that this man felt the most supreme pleasure while he was driven on so fast and so smoothly by the sea”.

Surfing is far more than pleasure. It is a connection with nature, the world, with God. Some might say it is love itself. It is a sense of timelessness, of other worldliness yet at the same time as connected to this world as it is possible to be. Daniel Duane describes it in Caught Inside as “a small occurrence outside the linear march of time”.

In The Four Quartets, T.S.Eliot describes “the still point of the turning world… [w]here past and future are gathered” and it is perhaps only in poetry and the evocation of life’s mysteries that one can approach the essence of surfing with any accuracy. He goes on, “Except for the point, the still point, There would be no dance, and there is only the dance…surrounded / By a grace of sense…In the completion of its partial ecstasy.”


However inexplicable it might be, the harnessing of the ocean and the mighty waves it throws shorewards provides a very powerful metaphor for the harnessing of life and everything that it throws at each one of us. On a more everyday level, it is also a sport which is away from worldly cares and to that extent contrasts with the sometimes stuffy image of the law. It is hoped that this may help to inspire the reader into seeing particular issues from a new perspective. Of course, it might also have the side effect of inspiring the occasional reader into paddling out into the waves themselves.

Learning from mistakes

This is an extract from Why Lawyers Should Surf co-authored with Dr Michelle Tempest which is now available on Waterstone's website here or can be ordered from XPL Publishing on 0870 079 8897 (p&p is included). Further extracts can be found here. To see a review of the book in The Independent click here.

Perhaps even more important than having a sense of direction is how to deal with the problems which life can throw up. The way problems or setbacks are approached can mean the difference between success and failure. Surfers know their place in the ocean. They know that however good they are, the waves can be mightier. Wiping out (when a surfer gets thrown from the wave) is as much a part of surfing as gliding along the face of a perfect wave. This humility in the face of such enormous sea forces means that surfers are prepared for the worst. They know the value of the English proverb that “A smooth sea never made a skilled mariner”. The value of Confucius, “Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall” and of Dr Martin Luther King, Jr, “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands in times of challenge and controversy.”

This was vividly illustrated by Allan C. Weisbecker in In Search of Captain Zero when he describes experiencing his worst wipe out in thirty years of surfing. The next day, still dripping blood from his wounds from the day before, he paddled out once again into the vicious reef break, describing not only the usual fear but always second time around, the “fear of fear”. It was in facing this down and committing to continue his odyssey which showed his character and ultimately gained the respect of the local surf crew.
Ernest Hemingway knew this when he said that, “The world breaks everyone and afterward some are strong at the broken places...” Rather than wipe outs being seen as failures, they are quite properly seen as the times when most is learnt by a surfer. Perhaps they got into the wave just a little too late and went ‘over the falls’. Or perhaps they were leaning too far forward on take off and the nose pitched into the face of the wave sending them head over heels. Maybe they just misjudged the size of the wave. Whatever it was, the experience always brings another small distinction which can be made. It is the full collection of these distinctions or lessons which ultimately lead to expertise. As Buckminster Fuller once wrote, “Whatever humans have learned had to be learned as a consequence of trial and error experience. Humans have learned through mistakes.”

Power of words

This is an extract from Why Lawyers Should Surf co-authored with Dr Michelle Tempest which is now available on Waterstone's website here or can be ordered from XPL Publishing on 0870 079 8897 (p&p is included). Further extracts can be found here. To see a review of the book in The Independent click here.

Rudyard Kipling described words as “the most powerful drug used by mankind.” They are the bridge between peoples’ minds. The means of communicating thoughts which otherwise might be trapped in the imagination. They are a means of bringing us together. However, the very fact of using such man-made tools can in itself limit the experience. This was illustrated by Italo Calvino in Invisible Cities in which Kublai Khan asks Marco Polo why he had not talked about his home, Venice. Marco Polo replied that: “Memory’s images, once they are fixed in words, are erased…perhaps I am afraid of losing Venice all at once, if I speak of it. Or perhaps, speaking of other cities, I have already lost it, little by little.”

To some extent, surfers feel that way about surfing. Trying to objectify the experience into mere words, risks diminishing the feeling. It simply exposes the limitations of words themselves. To try and grasp at its essence is to grasp at thin air in searching for anything literal. Often in these circumstances it is useful to look at the origin of words, where echoes of the thoughts of past generations are found. In Walking on Water, Andy Martin discusses the myriad means which Lorrin Andrews provides for he’enalu, the Hawaiiann word for surfing, in her Dictionary of the Hawaiian Language. He says that it splits into two words, he’e and nalu. He’e means among other things, to run, flow, slip glide and also to flee as well as to ride a surfboard. Nalu means among other things to suspend one’s judgment, to think within oneself, to search after any truth or fact, as well as the surf as it rolls in upon the beach. So, too, with the Hawaiian greeting Aloha which Drew Kampion in Stoked!: A History of Surf Culture, says is broken down literally as alo, meaning “experience” and ha meaning “breath of life”.

It can also be useful to look to poetry as a method of evoking meaning, for example, the following words from William Blake, in many ways get a lot closer to describing surfing than simply talking about riding down the face of a wave: “To see the World in a Grain of Sand / And a Heaven in a Wild Flower, / Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand / And Eternity in an hour.” This echoes Rachel Carson who said: “In every outthrust headland, in every curving beach, in every grain of sand there is the story of the earth.”

Taking risks

This is an extract from Why Lawyers Should Surf co-authored with Dr Michelle Tempest which is now available on Waterstone's website here or can be ordered from XPL Publishing on 0870 079 8897 (p&p is included). Further extracts can be found here. To see a review of the book in The Independent click here.

Writers have for a long time described the extreme nature of surfing big waves. For example, Mark Twain in Roughing It, “It did not seem that a lightning express train could shoot along at a more hair-lifting speed.” Herman Melville in Mardi, “Snatching them up, it hurries them landward, volume and speed both increasing, till it races along a watery wall, like the smooth, awful verge of Niagra.” Jack London in The Cruise of the Snark, “Why, they are a mile long, these bull-mouthed monsters, and they weigh a thousand tons, and they charge in to shore faster than a man can run.” Drew Kampion in The Book of Waves described a big wave rider as “like a matador to an avalanche”.

Big waves as the forces of life itself. Sometimes bearing down, at other times careering us forward as if floating on air. Big waves directing us through life’s mysteries. Longfellow wrote, “’Wouldst thou’ – so the helmsman answered.- / ‘Learn the secret of the sea? / Only those who brave its dangers / Comprehend its mystery!’” Kampion points to Rainer Maria Rilke: “We are the bees of the invisible. / We distractedly plunder / the honey of the visible in order to / accumulate it within / the golden hive of the invisible.”

We don’t all need to be big wave riders. But they can teach us not to fear the unknown. To rise to the challenge and see the benefits of taking some risks. To feel alive. To realise that through acts of courage, facing fear, insight can flourish. In You Should Have Been Here An Hour Ago, Phil Edwards explained the need for “controlled danger” in the modern age of health and safety: “There are, as you read this, uncounted millions of people who now go through life without any sort of real, vibrant kick. The legions of the unjazzed…The answer is surfing.”

Power of metaphor

This is an extract from Why Lawyers Should Surf co-authored with Dr Michelle Tempest which is now available on Waterstone's website here or can be ordered from XPL Publishing on 0870 079 8897 (p&p is included). Further extracts can be found here. To see a review of the book in The Independent click here.

Jose Ortega y gasset said, “the metaphor is perhaps one of man’s most fruitful potentialities. Its efficacy verges on magic, and it seems a tool for creation which God forgot inside one of His creatures when He made him.” How much better, for example, to take the poet Rabindranath Tagore’s description of the Taj Mahal, a monument to the Emperor Shah Jahan’s wife, as “a teardrop on the cheek of time”, than merely to describe its physical appearance?

Roger Payne, one of the world’s leading whale specialists and the man who recorded the whale songs which were sent out into open space in the Voyager mission has talked about the power images ca have on our collective subconscious. In Among Whales, he goes as far as to say that the story of Moby Dick conjured so powerful an image of the whale that it would “enter our minds, and…once inside…metastasize and diffuse throughout the whole engine of human ingenuity”. Ultimately, he suggests that might even go so far as to re-connect us with nature so that we “make the transition from Save the Whales to Saved by the Whales.”

Another image which has entered our minds and diffused throughout the engine of human ingenuity is that of surfing itself in relation to the internet. It provided a perfect description for the freedom and movement which the information superhighway could provide not only in the sharing of information but also in connecting communities together, just as the oceans flow from one to another. Some surf writers have railed at the idea that non-surfers should be acquiring this word and particularly for something which couldn’t on the face of it be further from paddling out into the sea, perhaps most articulately by Andy Martin as far back as 1995. Writing in The Independent, he commented that, “the sinister implication…is that ‘There is nothing beyond the Web.’ Being is being on the Net”. He suggested a compromise, “I promise not to lose my cool every time you surf the Net on the condition that if you slip and press the wrong key you download death in a million-volt wipeout.”

However, just as whales may ultimately save us by firing up visions of the natural world, so it is with surfing. Computer hacks the world over may be using the word without much thought but underneath they are stoking the fires of their imagination. It is the ocean in the human soul which is awakened by these gentle breezes. Our deeper selves. They have always been in us. Whales. Surfing. They are the routes within. The means.

Emotions: heartbeat of the soul

This is an extract from Why Lawyers Should Surf co-authored with Dr Michelle Tempest which is now available on Waterstone's website here or can be ordered from XPL Publishing on 0870 079 8897 (p&p is included). Further extracts can be found here. To see a review of the book in The Independent click here.

Einstein pointed to the fact that waves are manifest in all areas of our physical world. We see through the medium of light waves and hear through sound waves. Waves transmitting bundles of energy. So, too, with surfing. Farber in On Water, “These children at play, singing the song of the sea.” Jack London pointed out that the water itself does not move forward. It is only energy and “The water that composes the body of a wave is stationary. Thus, you may watch a particular portion of the ocean’s surface and you will see the same water rise and fall a thousand times to the agitation communicated by a thousand successive waves.”

Billy Hamilton, one of the great surfers of the 1960s and step-father of big wave surfer Laird Hamilton said, “To become the energy of the waves, that’s the main idea. You take when the water gives, and you give when the water takes”. In Voice of the Wave (re-printed in The Surfer’s Journal), Tom Blake, one of the founders of modern surfing went further and suggested looking inside the wave itself and further still to the secrets it holds at an atomic level. He said, “Each water molecule…is a model of order, harmony and rhythm; thus the atom becomes the key point of reference…in judging the wave as well as all problems in life.” So it is with looking to our emotions. They are like waves, the steady heartbeat of our soul. They are subtle, complex and not altogether clear, much like the constituent parts of a wave. They are fundamental to our very existence.

Limitations of goal-setting

This is an extract from Why Lawyers Should Surf co-authored with Dr Michelle Tempest which is now available on Waterstone's website here or can be ordered from XPL Publishing on 0870 079 8897 (p&p is included). Further extracts can be found here. To see a review of the book in The Independent click here.

Unlike most sports, there is no scientific criteria for distinguishing success for a surfer. Every surfer knows what it is but it’s often hard to put into words. In fact even to try to do so can potentially devalue it. Maybe it’s catching the longest ride, maybe it’s just getting out there and clearing your head of the day’s chores. Maybe it’s simply getting “stoked”. Whatever it is, it’s entirely subjective and the measurement for each person can even change from day to day. Surfing in this respect is more of an art than merely a sport. It is a means of self-expression. Of becoming something more and inspiring something deeper than merely the physical act.

With this in mind, it’s pretty impossible for surfers to set down an objective set of goals which they can daily work towards. Sure, they might want to improve their bottom turn or cut back. But ultimately what it boils down to for each surfer is whether they feel that sense of stoke by the end of the session. They therefore approach it with a completely flexible agenda, looking to make the best of every time they paddle out, not quite knowing what is going to happen.

Rather than being defined by goals, surfers are defined by commitment. Commitment to life in all its glory, to riding nature’s forces. Commitment to paddling out in all weathers, through all waves. Surfers learn pretty quickly that to suffer from ‘rubber arms’ where you simply go through the motions without actually getting anywhere is unsustainable. Commitment to paddling hard into waves that can truly terrify. One of the skills which a surfer learns early on is that if you’re going to catch a wave you have to commit. The crucial moment comes just when it feels like you might not make it and you’re looking down at a sizeable drop. The need to make that extra paddle, to jump up and to take the drop. In doing so, you almost join with the sea, become a part of it. Lord Byron described it in this way, “And I have loved thee, Ocean! …I wanton'd with thy breakers…And trusted to thy billows far and near, / And laid my hand upon thy mane -- as I do here.”

This also provides a very powerful metaphor for life itself. Many motivational books often get pre-occupied with the act of goal setting and in the process perhaps lose some of the soul, forgetting what it is really about. The goals are merely a means to a deeper end. This is not to say that goal-setting is not a powerful tool. Simply that it must be seen in context and if the path towards those goals is not quite straight then this must be seen as part of the great adventure rather than a deviation from the course. Goals can be good but they can also put a straight-jacket on creativity. They should be seen as setting a direction for the journey rather than determining the end of the journey in advance. When this is set, the key is to take action and commit with all the heart of a surfer paddling for a wave. The following should be seen in this context.

Concepts of time

This is an extract from Why Lawyers Should Surf co-authored with Dr Michelle Tempest which is now available on Waterstone's website here or can be ordered from XPL Publishing on 0870 079 8897 (p&p is included). Further extracts can be found here. To see a review of the book in The Independent click here.

Time. Hours, minutes, seconds. Notes which are the measure of life and facilitate an historical perspective. Help us plan for the future. Yet there are some moments in our lives when we feel outside of time. Rising above it. Stepping outside of time’s heavy march. Moments which engrave the soul; moments imprinted upon the memory before re-joining that march. Some surfers might say that this is how it feels when they are on a wave. Others might feel this in communion with God or in the purest moments of love or feeling at one with nature. It is the moments when the demands of time are forgotten that are often the most significant. Auden in The Waters:“With time in tempest everywhere…The waters long to hear our questions put / Which would release their longed-for answer, but.”

Blake spoke about being outside of time, “[i]f the doors of perception were to be cleansed, everything would appear as it is, infinite.” Yet time is used by everyone as a measure or a gauge. T.S.Eliot said that he had “measured his life out in coffee spoons”. Most use the calendar, the seasons, the years and ultimately the generations. It helps to give meaning, perspective. Yet, if too much attention is given to the passing of time, perhaps the vision and the bigger picture is lost. If this is the case, it is certainly true for lawyers as they take the measuring of time to its extreme. They make it into a commodity. Something to be bought and sold. The amount of billable hours worked is translated into someone’s worth to a firm.
This in itself can be no bad thing as it makes us all aware of the need to value the passing of time. Economists would describe time is a scarce resource and that any use of it has an opportunity cost, in other words they are stating the obvious: that you could have been doing something else instead. The risk for lawyers is that they always see this opportunity cost as a billable hour. This of course risks skewing the view of time, particularly when the price of perhaps the most precious activities can never be valued; as the Barclaycard ad says, are priceless. What price, the soul?

Ideas of happiness

This is an extract from Why Lawyers Should Surf co-authored with Dr Michelle Tempest which is now available on Waterstone's website here or can be ordered from XPL Publishing on 0870 079 8897 (p&p is included). Further extracts can be found here. To see a review of the book in The Independent click here.

In That Oceanic Feeling, Fiona Capp reports a conversation she had with Cambridge don and author of surf books Walking on Water and Stealing the Wave, Andy Martin. In particular, he had been explaining how the modern concept of happiness had its origins in the discovery of Polynesian culture in the eighteenth century. She reports him as saying, “Happiness, le bonheur, was a universal human right for the revolutionaries. Reports about Tahiti…gave the idea of paradise substance.” The contrast between this and the life back in France in his view “underlay the French revolution.”
It is often this hedonistic view of happiness which still unsettles people in modern times, and which has skewed much of modern society’s view. Yet happiness is in fact in the small things in our lives. The routines and the familiar. It is the contact with family and friends, the sharing of our time and our experiences and not forgetting to appreciate the simple things in life. Some might highlight evolutionary factors in this respect, forged down the generations. For example, in On Whales, Roger Payne suggests that the sensation of being happy, “must have been triggered for thousands of generations by very simple things…that were common to the lives of ancestors…things like good health, enough food…or a sense of well-being that comes from being surrounded by troop mates…”

Effect of natural world

This is an extract from Why Lawyers Should Surf co-authored with Dr Michelle Tempest which is now available on Waterstone's website here or can be ordered from XPL Publishing on 0870 079 8897 (p&p is included). Further extracts can be found here. To see a review of the book in The Independent click here.

The sociologist Max Weber described the breakdown of social norms and values when Europe moved from a rural to an industrial society. Its people were uprooted and transformed from family units to alienated individuals fending for themselves in the big cities. He called this phenomenon anomie. This may lead on to a reason why many people have a strong connection between happiness and nature in all its wildness. A return back to the simplicity of rural ways. Community. Perhaps it is simply the escape from the noise of the town. St. Exubery said of flying that “it releases [one’s] mind from the tyranny of petty things.” Some might simply say that to look at nature’s beauty is to experience a revelation of God. Anne Morrow Lindbergh in Gift from the Sea describes how it can clear the head of one’s worldly woes, “Rollers on the beach, wind in the pines, the slow flapping of herons across sand dunes…One becomes…flattened by the sea; bare, open, empty as the beach, erased by today’s tides of all yesterday’s scribblings.”

A phrase often used is that of feeding the soul. When looking out to sea, the connection can be almost visceral. Like the filling up of a spiritual tank. In On Whales, Roger Payne describes it as “a sort of celestial phlogiston, which … restores souls and sets minds straight.” This he compares to city dwellers whose disconnection with nature has drained them of this goodness to the point of what he calls urbanicide, “until they are a hollow husk of the full ripe ear of their pastoral ancestors”.

Role of silence

This is an extract from Why Lawyers Should Surf co-authored with Dr Michelle Tempest which is now available on Waterstone's website here or can be ordered from XPL Publishing on 0870 079 8897 (p&p is included). Further extracts can be found here. To see a review of the book in The Independent click here.

Silence can be an important factor which is often missing from busy modern lives. In Gift from the Sea, Anne Morrow Lindbergh describes all the demands of modern life. In particular, the following words probably have particular resonance for lawyers, “Not knowing how to feed the spirit, we try to muffle its demands in distractions. Instead of stilling the center, the axis of the wheel, we add more centrifugal activities to our lives — which tend to throw us off balance.”

She describes the solution as “neither in total renunciation of the world, nor in total acceptance of it” and that the balance was “a swinging of the pendulum between solitude and communion, between retreat and return”. As part of that balance, the solitude was to be found for her by the ocean. As part of the exercise of silence, the words of Rainer Maria Rilke in Letters to a Young Poet assist, “Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions…Do not seek the answers, which cannot be given to you because you would not be able to live them.” The point he went on was to live the questions until you “gradually without noticing it, live your way some distant day into the answer.”
In Finding Sanctuary, Abbot Christopher Jamison explains the Rule of St Benedict and the need for silence in one’s life. The Rule says in particular that “There are times when good words are to be left unsaid out of esteem for silence.” However, he also describes the challenge of finding what he calls “positive silence” in the city, although he says perhaps the biggest challenge is to help people find positive silence inside themselves. However, he goes on that the laying of a carpet of silence is in fact only an underlay as the noises in the head remain. What is needed beyond this, he says, is what he calls “the carpet of contemplation”. This, he suggests, can be done through prayer, meditation and good reading.

Environment: dancing on brink of the world

This is an extract from Why Lawyers Should Surf co-authored with Dr Michelle Tempest which is now available on Waterstone's website here or can be ordered from XPL Publishing on 0870 079 8897 (p&p is included). Further extracts can be found here. To see a review of the book in The Independent click here.

‘Time and tide wait for no man’ as the saying goes. First ascribed to Chaucer, the word tide meant ‘time’ in those days. However, today it applies equally to the ebb and flow of the sea and resonates powerfully in these times of environmental need. The consequences of the damage and the rise of the sea flow as inevitably as the tide and all we can hope is that the world reacts in time.

Surfers’ connection with the environment comes primarily from the fact that they spend so many hours staring out on its vastness. Contemplating its forces. Harnessing its power. As Matt Warshaw says in Maverick’s: The Story of Big-Wave Surfing, “Surfing expresses ... a pure yearning for visceral, physical contact with the natural world.” However, perhaps it’s something more than this. Taking a perspective from a breaking wave. In geometry, mathematicians describe a straight line which touches the edge of a curve at a particular point as a tangent. Perhaps the surfboard is the tangent on the edge of the world. In Caught Inside, Daniel Daune talks about the Ohlone, the indigenous people of Northern California who have lived in California for over 1,500 years and quotes a line from their which has survived and which he says, “makes perfect sense to me as I surf here before so much space: dancing on the brink of the world.”

Dancing on the brink of the world. The surfer as the point of intersection between the world and the tangent line of the surfboard. The surfer balancing on the top of the world. Surveying all before him. Perhaps there is even more. Surfers not only standing on top of the world but also at the intersection of the land and the sea as well as that between the sea and the sky. In That Oceanic Feeling, Fiona Capp said that she was “Entranced by that mythical line where the sea meets the sky, Tennyson’s Ulysses regarded all experience as ‘an arch wherethrough gleams that untravelled world whose margin fades for ever and for ever when I move’.”

Surfers standing at the intersection of the world. The portal or meeting place of nature’s forces. Maybe it’s all or none of these things. Whatever it is, there’s an essence which continues to elude just as when we grasp at the ocean we are left only with its salty residue. Yet for all that we may romanticize nature, we must never forget its dangers, increasingly evident in the environmental disasters which are hitting our planet. In Cannery Row, John Steinbeck points to the dangers of turning a blind eye to nature’s primeval forces, “Here a crab tears a leg from his brother…Then the creeping murderer the octopus, steals out, slowly, softly, moving like a gray mist, pretending to be a bit of weed, now a rock, now a lump of decaying meat while its evil goat eyes watch coldly.”

It is the shadow to the light. A reminder of nature’s harsh realities. Just as the crab tears the leg in the microcosm of the ocean so a hurricane can tear away a city. It is something which can affect us all and for which we are all responsible. Not just a problem which others need to solve. Surfers as much as anyone else. They drive many miles to the ocean, often in large vans or with a board on their roof adding to their carbon footprint. They fly all over the world in search of waves and when they get there they put on wetsuits and paddle out on boards which cannot be recycled.

Our relationship with the ocean

This is an extract from Why Lawyers Should Surf co-authored with Dr Michelle Tempest which is now available on Waterstone's website here or can be ordered from XPL Publishing on 0870 079 8897 (p&p is included). Further extracts can be found here. To see a review of the book in The Independent click here.

Rachel Carson wrote, “For all at last return to the sea – / To Oceanus, the ocean river. / Like the ever-flowing stream of time, / The beginning and the end.” Whether we are lawyers, doctors, accountants or from any other walk of life, perhaps we all return to our roots at some point on our journey through life. This was illustrated in Paolo Coelho’s The Alchemist, where the hero went out in search of treasure only to find that it was in fact lying where his journey had begun: his home, his heart, ultimately, love. John F. Kennedy said, “We are tied to the ocean. And when we go back to the sea, whether it is to sail or to watch - we are going back from whence we came”.

Perhaps that’s the point. Just as all the rivers flow inexorably towards their ultimate source, the ocean, perhaps our lives equally flow back towards their beginnings. The meanderings along the way are all part of that journey although at the time this may not be particularly obvious. T.S.Eliot wrote in The Four Quartets, “In my beginning is my end… / We shall not cease from exploration / And the end of all our exploring / Will be to arrive where we started / And know the place for the first time.”

The ocean as the metaphor to explore life, our relationships with each other, love, God. The ocean as a conduit. Without form and void and yet a connection to something greater, something we can only imagine in the fringes of our thoughts. The ocean as the depths of our subconscious. In The Face of the Deep, Thomas Farber reminds us of what lies beneath and that, “When we look out at the vast blue, we see not ocean, exactly, but surface: master trickster, chameleon, boundary between water and atmosphere, barrier or seal between two realities.”

The breaking wave as the boundary with the conscious mind, the route into the subconscious. Jung’s anima and animus in one. The guide to the subconscious. The light to the shadow. Perhaps it is something to do with the timeless quality of the ocean. The fact that whilst it never remains the same, it appears on the surface to be unmarked by the ravages of time. In Caught Inside, Daniel Duane says that his friend Willie described surfing, “as having the quality of Japenese dancing on rice paper, in which the dancer steps so delicately that the paper never tears, and pointed out how each wave washes away all that has come before.” So, mountains, valleys, living creatures. All bow to time’s dominion. The ocean on the other hand appears as a constant. As Henry David Thoreau said, “We do not associate the idea of antiquity with the ocean, nor wonder how it looked a thousand year, as we do of the land, for it was equally wild and unfathomable always.”

However, just because its physical appearance on the surface does not change, that is not to say that events do not take their toll and this is perhaps never more clearly illustrated than the present day when the ocean is being polluted to such an extent that many forms of sea-life are now struggling to survive. Water’s memory is more subtle but no less profound. Perhaps again, a symbol of the subconscious. In Water, Ice and Stone, Bill Green talked about “how water retained, like a childhood memory, a trace of its past as ice. How it never forgot that. How it carried that singular fact with it…all the way to boiling point.” A.R.Ammons, “The very longest swell in the ocean, I suspect, carries the deepest memory.” Keats, “Wide sea, that one continuous murmur breeds along the pebbled shore of memory!”

The voice from our souls, our relationship to the world around us, the meaning of life itself. These are all issues which very often are not particularly dealt with in many of the slightly mechanical quick-fix motivational manuals. This is undoubtedly because of the difficulty of pinning down any specific causes, effects and solutions. However, to ignore the deep murmurings of the soul is to turn away from life itself, just as it is to turn away from the sea. Edith Sitwell once wrote, “What are you staring at, mariner man / Wrinkled as sea-sand and old as the sea?”

Go visit the sea.

Look out on its ever-changing mass and wonder.

Maybe even consider paddling out.

Then look far out the back and reflect.

As surfers do.

Why lawyers are in danger

This is an extract from Why Lawyers Should Surf co-authored with Dr Michelle Tempest which is now available on Waterstone's website here or can be ordered from XPL Publishing on 0870 079 8897 (p&p is included). Further extracts can be found here. To see a review of the book in The Independent click here.

Several studies have cited that lawyers have an above average rate of low mood. In the early 1990s a John Hopkins University study compared the rates of depression among one hundred and four occupations and found that lawyers were nearly four times above the average rate of depression. This then begs the question ‘why do lawyers have such a high level of depression’? There are several hypotheses for this, well beyond the explanation that law is a stressful and busy job.


Professor Martin Seligman argues that the key thing about lawyers is that they tend to have pessimistic personality types. When lawyers are asked the famous question: ‘Is the cup half empty or half full?’ most respond by saying half empty. This somewhat pessimistic response may be a distinguishing advantage within the legal profession, because viewing troubles as pervasive and continuing, is at the very heart of being a prudent lawyer. The inherent and honed ‘scepticism skills’, enable the lawyer to see every conceivable hiccup or catastrophe that might occur in legal transactions. Therefore, the ability to anticipate any pending or possible snare or disaster gives a positive legal outcome, as the lawyer can then help clients defend against potential negative eventualities. Hence, ‘pervasive pessimism’ and possibly ‘catastrophizing’ can be seen as a powerful legal tool, helping to anticipate disaster, and encouraging lawyers to think the worst before it has happened. However, on the flip side of the same coin, is that if you take that same pessimistic mindset home with you from the office, it may form part of the answer as to why lawyers are more likely to suffer with low moods.


Another hypothesis is that lawyers tend to express ‘high-dominance’ as a key feature of their personality; again something which aids successful legal careers. Key features of a ‘high-dominance’ personality include people who: interrupt others, talk longer, take charge of conversations, decide when to change topic, state strong preferences and opinions, have an unyielding manner and tend to enjoy giving instructions and advice. ‘High dominance’ personalities also tend to believe in statements, such as, ‘winning is more important than playing the game’. This may be an integral part of being a successful lawyer who never looses a battle, however, when this is mindset extended outside the workplace it fits less well with the challenges of daily life. When things have not gone the way high dominance personalities have planned, it can be a time when they struggle to manage or cope on a psychological level.


A further hypothesis is based on the accumulating psychological evidence that much work stress arises from interacting with people rather than things. In fact, ‘emotional labour’ is more mentally taxing than the old fashion labour jobs that were more physically taxing. It has been shown that the more your job requires you to fake emotions, the more emotionally detached you become from those around you. Hiding or faking emotions, can lead to ‘clinical burnout’. Since lawyers keep a professional detachment from their cases and cannot get too emotionally involved, this could potentially lead to the burnout state of mind. Burnout can result in symptoms of emotional exhaustion, fatigue, detached attitude towards others, low sense of effectiveness, helplessness and also low mood.


The risk of the inherent pessimism means that lawyers should be especially careful not to extend the negative mindset perspective into other areas of their lives. This book will hopefully assist the reader in finding perspective, so that even during the most difficult times in life a of context can be found, which can also provide something to learn and grow from. As Shakespeare said, “There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so”.