THE ADVOCATE 199
VOL. 79 PART 2 MARCH 2021
athletes with hearts pounding at 120 beats per minute will explode in unison
from the starting line. Almost immediately, their heart rates will reach
200 beats per minute and stay there for the next five minutes. A wayward
thought or a glance aside can throw off the rhythm of the boat and cost valuable
microseconds that can mean the difference between Olympic glory
and ignominy. The participants will have logged thousands of miles of rowing
and countless hours of pain for an event that takes five and a half minutes
and occurs once every four years.
Even more painful and challenging are the annual races between Oxford
and Cambridge on the Thames in England and between Harvard and Yale on
the Thames near New London, Connecticut. These races are the oldest college
sporting events in both Britain and the United States. They are four and
a half miles long, sometimes in treacherous conditions. They result in one
winner and one loser. One can assume from the names of the participating
universities that the rowers are relatively intelligent, and the obvious conclusion
is that there may be some correlation between intelligence and rowing.
Focus of course is essential to the successful practice of law. Great opinions,
great submissions and ultimately great judgments are the product of
many drafts and corrections. A well-crafted agreement or closing agenda is
usually the result of constant rewriting, collaboration and, most importantly,
experience. Effective cross-examination and argument are the product
of hours of preparation and years of experience punctuated by failure,
disappointment and reprimands from judges. Success in the sport of rowing
is the product of thousands of hours of hard work, constant competition for
a place in the crew and endless criticism from “the eyes outside the boat”—
the coach. As Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. famously said, “The life of the law
has not been logic; it has been experience.” With minor changes in wording,
the same maxim could be applied to the sport of rowing.
Attention to detail is essential for a competitive rower and for a successful
lawyer. A miniscule adjustment to the height of the oar lock, the fulcrum
around which everything in rowing turns, can make a huge difference to
the rowing stroke and the speed of the boat. A misplaced comma, a poorly
chosen word or an improper question can have major consequences for the
effect of a legal document or a judicial proceeding.
Leadership is another quality that defines successful rowers and lawyers.
It is no surprise that many of the rowers who went on to be B.C. lawyers
occupied the stroke seat. The stroke sits in the stern of the boat directly in
front of the coxswain. The stroke sets the rate (the number of strokes per
minute) and a quality more essential to a good rowing crew called rhythm.
By engaging a built-in metronome, a good stroke is able to set the rate that