New Year's Resolutions

By Phillip Addis  

My deadline for this article was in early November. Given my habitual procrastination, I did not finish it until three days before this issue was due to go to press. At 5:30 a.m. that same morning, I decided to scrap the article I had written and start over. It seems I’d better add a resolution about getting my articles in on time to my 2018 resolutions.

2017 was an up and down year for many people. Speaking for myself, 2017 saw the passing of three dear friends. To protect the innocent, I will not give you their full names. 

It wasn’t until I read two books, “The Compound Effect” by Darren Hardy and “One Small Yes” by Misty Lown, that I realized I had made contracts with these three people, though I was unaware of it. 

Bill was always concerned about my health. He would tell me to lose weight, exercise more and drink more red wine. I got angry once and asked him why he kept on me about my health. Bill answered, “You’re a lawyer, you should know this; once you had children, you made a contract with them to be around as long as possible.” 

Patrick was a very well-known figure in our community. I had known him since I was a child, and he always pressed me to do better. Whenever we went to lunch, he would ask about my goals and plans. He was never content with a simple answer.

Again, getting frustrated with his constant questions during one lunch, I asked him why he was always pushing. Patrick answered, “I promised your father before he died that I would look out for you. I’m not going to break that promise.” In his own way, he had created a contract with my father that he fulfilled until his death. 

Michael was my brother-in-law. After 40 years with my brother, he passed away unexpectedly. Michael was an Episcopal priest and an extremely intelligent man with an incredible knowledge of history. He spent many years studying his own family’s history and discovering long lost relatives. The conversations he had with my daughters have caused them to develop a deep interest in history and their own family lineage.

At his home in Baltimore one day, he made me promise I would make sure my daughters learned about religion and the importance of not just their own family history, but of the world. Though Michael never had any children of his own, his many years spent working with families had given him an incredible insight into family dynamics. 

I asked him why he was so worried about my daughters. His comment was very similar to Bill’s: As a lawyer, I should know that once I had children, I made a contract with them to help them become the best adults they can. 

I will admit that this is not a traditional legal article. In looking back at this past year, however, many times we don’t see that the greatest contracts we make are with ourselves, our family, our friends and our community. Though people do sue family members and even themselves (which is an article for another day), no lawyer can truly enforce the family and social contracts we create. In these contracts, the judge and jury are the faces we see in the mirror every morning. 

I wish you the best of luck in 2018. I hope you never need a lawyer to enforce the contracts you make with yourself this year.

Phil Addis owns and operates Addis Law Offices in La Crosse, Wisconsin. He admits to making and breaking numerous New Year’s contracts (resolutions) over the years, but he’s hoping no one is keeping track.

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