Can you coax your mind from its wandering

and keep to the original oneness?

Can you let your body become

supple as a newborn child's?

Can you cleanse your inner vision

until you see nothing but the light?

Can you love people and lead them

without imposing your will?

Can you deal with the most vital matters

by letting events take their course?

Can you step back from your own mind

and thus understand all things?

- Lao Tzu

In law, as in life, stepping back from one's own mind is the key to understanding all things.

When one is caught up in one's own mind, it's impossible to see oneself and one's world clearly . . . objectively. A lawyer is tasked with seeing into the mind of his opposition. To do so requires exorcising himself from himself . . . at least to the extent that it allows him to enter the hypothetical circumstances of another.

An overly emotional or egotistical lawyer is his own worst enemy, as he is trapped inside his own mind with no eye out. I've seen the aftermath of this lawyer in and out of the courtroom. Such a lawyer does not act in his client's best interest.

- M. Chappell


The Master gives himself up

to whatever the moment brings.

He knows that he is going to die,

and he has nothing left to hold onto:

no illusions in his mind,

no resistances in his body.

He doesn't think about his actions;

they flow from the core of his being.

He holds nothing back from life;

therefore he is ready for death,

as a man is ready for sleep

after a good day's work.

- Lao Tzu

Too much thinking messes up most things in life . . . and in law. My approach to both is to first carefully consider,  but then to take immediate action. Too many attorneys spend too much time (and too much of their clients' money!) thinking instead of acting. 

My approach to the practice of law is not to drown in problems, but to briskly swim downstream, with the current, and resolve my clients' issues to the best of my ability, then step back and let go.

My fuel for life is seventy percent intuition and conscience. I don't have to think too much about what to say or do . . . it comes much more automatically now. But this wasn't always the case. It's hard work NOT to think!

- M. Chappell


Fill your bowl to the brim,

and it will spill.

Keep sharpening your knife,

and it will blunt.

Chase after money and security,

and your heart will never unclench.

Care about people's approval,

and you will be their prisoner.


Do your work, then step back...the only path to serenity.

-Lao Tzu

Attorneys are not machines; they're human beings. They can get just as ground down by the stress and drama of a lawsuit as their clients...if they allow it. However, a well-balanced attorney avoids the emotional maelstrom and just does his best, then steps back. This truly is the only path to serenity, for attorneys and non-attorneys alike. A client might wonder, shouldn't my attorney be as emotionally invested in my legal issue as me? Isn't that his job? The long answer is . . . no. This would make him infinitely less effective.

Viewed in another context: a dispassionate, efficient, competent surgeon, scalpel in hand, is infinitely more effective in surgery than an emotionally invested, shaky-handed family member. Cool heads prevail in the practice of law, just as in the practice of medicine.

A good attorney is emotionally balanced. He doesn't sharpen his blade till it blunts. He uses the same blade over and over again without ever having to sharpen it. 

- M. Chappell


If you close your mind in judgments

and traffic with desires,

your heart will be troubled.

If you keep your mind from judging

and aren't led by the senses,

your heart will find peace.

Seeing into darkness is clarity.

Knowing how to yield is strength.

Use your own light,

and return to the source of light.

This is called practicing eternity.

- Lao Tzu

As a litigator, knowing both how and when to yield - whether to a judge or opposing counsel - is strength. Barreling headfirst on the thrust of self-will is usually a mistake; one should always consider the waves one creates whilst self-propelling. Working with the current should be the rule, not the exception. The exception should be the exception, not the rule.

In terms of Tao, an attorney should know the Yang, but stick to the Yin; i.e., in an attorney's dealings with colleagues and clients, he should know how to use force, but usually refrain from employing it. This prevents trouble before it begins, and unfettered self-will can create a lot of trouble. Life isn't a battle unless one decides to make it one. Peacefulness, receptivity and compassion - or Yin - is the rule; aggression, self-will and, sometimes, even ruthlessness - or Yang - is the exception . . . always the exception.

- M. Chappell


Thus it is said:

The path into the the light seems dark,

the path forward seems to go back,

the direct path seems long,

true power seems weak,

true purity seems tarnished,

true steadfastness seems changeable,

true clarity seems obscure,

the greatest art seems unsophisticated,

the greatest love seems indifferent,

the greatest wisdom seems childish.

The Tao is nowhere to be found.

Yet it nourishes and completes all things.

- Lao Tzu

All is not as it seems . . . not in life, not in law.

Despite the projection of the world as portrayed by Hollywood and the media, life isn't a zero-sum game - the winner on the right eating grapes and caviar, the loser on the left eating hardtack and applesauce. No. Life is about balance. So is the legal system. Recall the scales of justice? The scales are much more than mere empty symbolism, for they simultaneously both encapsulate and transcend human law inasmuch as they represent the fairness in this world that awaits us in the next.

My clients are sometimes shocked at how adamant I am about trying to resolve their issues without resorting to litigation, even though 50% of the time I do just that. And then at least some must wonder, "What did I need an attorney for? I did it all on my own;)"

The question goes like this: Aren't lawyers supposed to sue? Isn't that their modus operandi?

Well . . . yes and no. Mostly no. We're considered Attorneys and Counselors at Law. That second part often gets overlooked by the overzealous client in search of "justice",  a word often, and quite unfortunately, used interchangeably with "revenge", but they are not the same.

Lawyers are not in the business of exacting revenge on anyone, not even on the most egregious of defendants, the ones who might, perhaps, deserve a dose of karmic accountability. No, lawyers, in my opinion, are in the business of creating balance in a world gone awry. . . making the lop-sided even. It's that simple.

- M. Chappell



Stop thinking, and end your problems.

What difference between yes and no?

What difference between success and failure?

Must you value what others value, 

avoid what others avoid?

How ridiculous!

- Lao Tzu

Lao Tzu says our three greatest treasures as socio-spiritual beings are: Patience - with friends and enemies; Compassion - for oneself, and thus the world; and, very important...Simplicity - of thought and action.

Just because something reads or sounds sophisticated or intelligent, doesn't make it so - oftentimes just the opposite.

As an attorney, I try to take the most complex of issues and chip away at their complexity, bit by bit, until they're no longer so complex. Until they're, well, simple.

Think of the Windows operating system. You'll never see the intricate, algorithmic complexity behind any of those colorful icons on your computer or smartphone. No. The complexity is hidden, like an iceberg, or a deep-hulled ocean liner. Making the complex simple requires creativity and synthesis, the two highest orders of thought. It's easy to get caught up in "complex", circular thinking if one isn't vigilantly mindful of one's thoughts, moment by moment...

And it's a daily struggle, the human struggle, but a very worthwhile one. A journey is what we're on, whereby the destination isn't nearly as important as the path, the way . . . the Tao.

- M. Chappell


The mark of a moderate man

is freedom from his own ideas.

Tolerant like the sky,

all-pervading like sunlight,

firm like a mountain,

supple like a tree in the wind,

he has no destination in view

and makes use of anything life happens to bring his way.

Nothing is impossible for him.

Because he has let go,

he can care for the people's welfare

as a mother cares for her child.

- Lao Tzu

The other day I read a bumper sticker that said, "Don't believe everything you think". It's true. We get so caught up in our own little plans and designs for how we think the world should work, that we often forget that the world is what it is quite independently from what we might want it to be . . . our little judgments and desires.

In the practice of law, an attorney has a daily choice of two mental positions: open or closed. My goal is to default at open, though it's practice not perfection, and I often have to remind myself of this, my lofty, albeit quite attainable objective, several times a day. It's not so easy if you're really honest with yourself. REALLY honest.

No, it's quite hard to be open-minded, because open-mindedness means fearlessness, and, unfortunately, FEAR is the most powerful force in our world today. I believe fear, not money, to be the root of all evil; greed is but a concomitant manifestation of fear. Most people are shot through with it and don't even realize it, and sometimes I am too, but that's when I have to remind myself that fear is an illusion, the greatest, and certainly the most destructive illusion of all. But fear is a subjective construct of our minds, not an objective reality. We decide to fear moment by moment, and to fear is to be close-minded, and to be close-minded is to cut oneself off from one's fellow human beings.

This is true suffering.

So, the open-minded attorney is a rare, but rough and common stone in the legal profession. It's an ideal, not a permanent state of being. My goal is to remain as open-minded as possible, moment by moment; I think I'm batting around .300 if I'm really honest with myself. But, as with everything human, it's once again progress not perfection. No one bats .1000. No one. That's God.

- M. Chappell


Whoever relies on the Tao in governing men

doesn't try to force issues

or defeat enemies by force of arms.

For every force there is a counterforce.

Violence, even well-intentioned,

always rebounds upon oneself.

The Master does his job

and then stops.

He understands that the universe

is forever out of control

and that trying to dominate events

goes against the current of the Tao.

Because he believes in himself,

he doesn't try to convince others.

Because he is content with himself,

he doesn't need others' approval.

Because he accepts himself,

the whole world accepts him.

- Lao Tzu

It's thought by many that an attorney's daily objective is to "dominate" his "opponent" in a sort of battle of words and paper in lieu of swords and guns; but this sort of mentality leads to one of two crippling states of being for the unfortunate attorney: The lawyer who hates his job, but trudges on despite his miserable existence; or the lawyer who burns out and goes in search of a different career thinking that will solve his problems.

However, neither scenario solves the problem, because the problem isn't the job, it's the lawyer.

Newton's Second Law of Motion states that each and every force has an equivalent counterforce; but if one gets out of the way of this cycle of force and counterforce and just moves with the current - whichever way that might be, and the direction changes every day, sometimes every minute of every day - then one has acquired the greatest, albeit hard-earned, gift one could possibly acquire as an attorney or non-attorney: peace of mind.

- M. Chappell





The supreme good is like water, which nourishes all things without trying to. It is content with the low places that people disdain. Thus it is like the Tao. 

In dwelling, live close to the ground. 

In thinking, keep to the simple. 

In conflict, be fair and generous. 

In governing, don't try to control.

In work, do what you enjoy.

In family life, be completely present. 

When you are content to be simply yourself and don't compare or compete, everybody will respect you. 

- Lao Tzu

Letting go of control is often very difficult for attorneys, as they're usually hired to take control, not relinquish it. However, my experience is that most human affairs merely require a little nudging, a little suggestive guidance, as it were; the rest usually works itself out just fine on its own.

I do my best today, and today is the only day I do my best, for it's the only day I have; yesterday is gone, and tomorrow is but an illusion.

If I'm honest, work hard and smart, am fair and cordial to all, I don't have to worry about yesterday or tomorrow, because today I have done all that I could do. Tomorrow's good results are the natural offspring of today's good work. 

- M. Chappell


Act without doing; work without effort.

Think of the small as large and the few as many.

Confront the difficult while it is still easy; accomplish the great task by a series of small acts.

The Master never reaches for the great; thus he achieves greatness. When he runs into a difficulty, he stops and gives himself to it. He doesn't cling to his own comfort; thus problems are no problem for him.

- Lao Tzu

As an attorney, I try to keep large tasks small by dismantling them into their constituent parts and giving myself completely to each one. I almost never allow a large task to overwhelm me, because I'm always working on it, little by little. BIG results come from little effort; little effort yields BIG results.

I approach "problems" as solutions in disguise; therefore problems are no problem for me. However, I also try to know when it's best to let go and allow the natural course of events to shape themselves. It sounds easy to just let go, but, practically speaking, it can be quite difficult to do without the right mindset.

State of mind is a decision we all must make, tiny moment by tiny moment. 

- M. Chappell