Defense Counsel Journal

President's Page - Volume 89, Number 1

Volume 89, No. 1

April 29, 2022

Silverglate_Spencer_2021_sized Spencer H. Silverglate
Silverglate_Spencer_2021_sized

Spencer H. Silverglate

Spencer Silverglate is the 2021-2022 President of the IADC. He is a partner at Clarke Silverglate, P.A. in Miami, Florida. Spencer has a national reputation for handling complex business, insurance, and employment disputes and for defending high-stakes personal injury and product liability claims and mass and class actions.

ONE

By Spencer H. Silverglate

We’re one but we’re not the same
We get to carry each other, carry each other
-One, U2

In her book, The Space Between Us, Sarah Bauer Anderson quotes a line from the Jewish Talmud: “If the house has fallen, woe to the windows.” It’s the idea that we’re all in it together. That an outbreak of a virus in one corner of the world can impact health across the globe. That one country’s actions have repercussions far beyond its borders. That injustice anywhere has implications everywhere.  

COVID-19 reminds us of our interconnectivity and dependence on each other’s wellbeing. Yet despite the pandemic, we seem as polarized as ever. Politics, religion, and social justice have long been flashpoints for disagreement. But today, everything from masks, testing, and vaccine protocols to business and school closings/openings have become divisive topics. Worse, pandemic-induced isolation and the echo chamber of mono-channel news and social media have crippled our ability to engage civilly. We’ve quarantined ourselves in sameness.

To be clear, this critique isn’t limited to any one group; it applies to all our groups. As Anderson writes, “the muscle used to debate kindly, speak openly, and converse respectfully has atrophied.” We’ve become so single-minded in promoting our views that we’ve compromised the integrity of the whole. 

I’m convinced now more than ever that the only way to narrow the divide between people who don’t look alike, don’t think alike, and have different lived experiences is through communication. Politics can’t unite us. Social media won’t draw us together. But sharing our unique stories just might help.

The IADC has been a leader in creating environments for communication, but there’s more work to be done. Our association includes members of many tribes, many tongues, many nations—and many viewpoints. We are conservative, we are progressive, and we are everything in between. If you are from the United States, about half the country—and presumably many IADC members—voted for a different candidate than yours in the last presidential election. But it would be a mistake to stereotype IADC members—or anyone—by their political stripes. We live in a world of nuance, not binaries.  None of us is a single story.

Of course, IADC members do share much in common: you represent the very best of the Bar and the insurance industry. And the similarities do not end there. As IADC members, you are gentlepersons. You are unfailingly civil. You are the best there is—not just in the legal arena, but in the human arena. And you possess one of the rarest human skills: the ability to communicate and even to disagree without being disagreeable. The IADC’s secret sauce is collegiality. As our unofficial tagline goes, “Superior Advocates, No Jerks.” 

I’m so inspired by my fellow IADC members that, in the spirit of the New Year, I’d like to share my three personal resolutions for 2022: (1) spend more time with people who don’t look or think like me, (2) listen more than I speak, and (3) respect other viewpoints.

Time. The IADC boasts members from six continents, 48 countries, and every U.S. state and territory. The Association is a banquet table at which all members are welcome. I will pull up a chair and feast on the opportunity to fellowship with members who have different perspectives and experiences than my own. I will spend time with members who don’t look like me, think like me, or vote like me. When I do this, I invariably learn something.  And I find that we have more in common than not because, after all, we share a common humanity. We all need each other, and we are better together.

Listen. Everyone’s favorite TV football (a/k/a soccer) coach Ted Lasso encouraged us to be curious, not judgmental. What great advice! It echoes Stephen Covey’s “Fifth Habit”: “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.” In other words, before I evaluate another person’s perspective, I will first make sure I understand it.  I will not presume to know everything about them by their category—or the category I place them in. I will consider how I might feel if I’d walked a mile in their shoes. Because when I say, “I can’t understand how anyone could think that way,” that’s an indictment of myself. While I don’t need to agree with other viewpoints, I should at least understand them. And the only way to understand is to listen. 

Respect. I can respect other points of view without changing my strongly held beliefs. Respect is not conformity. Civility is not agreement. Unity is not sameness. I can celebrate our differences without changing who I am. I can respect your views without adopting them. I can love you and disagree with you.

At the same time, I will bear in mind that my opinions—even strong ones—have changed over time. Like all of us, I am a work in progress, which is a good thing. Life would be stifling if we were frozen in time. So as I wend my way through the year ahead, I will consider the possibility that my views might not yet be fully formed. That they may be considerably different in the future. And I will try to remember that it’s more important to be kind than to be “right.”

If I can do these few things, then I will have owned my small part in moving us closer toward our shared vision: One World. One Mission. One IADC.        

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