Oct 8, 1995

The Story So Far

I was born on June 29, 1966 in Natick, Massachusetts, which is about 15 miles outside of Boston. I suppose that makes me a Cancer, but I don't believe in astrology (Cancers are noted for their skepticism). Both my parents were Jewish, but they converted to Christianity when I was 4 years old. I, myself, was baptized at the age of 8. Whether I am still truly "Jewish" is a matter of debate. According to many people, one is Jewish if (and only if) one is born of a Jewish mother. Although not without exception, this has been the historical determination of whether one is Jewish or not, possibly because in ancient times the Jewish people were commanded not to marry outside of the "House of Israel," and it was easier to be sure who someone's mother is than someone's father. In this sense, I am clearly Jewish (although, interestingly enough, this criterion is most often used to exclude people -- "you can't really be Jewish, because only your father is Jewish"]. Personally, this is the viewpoint I adhere to, and I consider myself to be Jewish as a matter of birth, heritage and bloodline.

According to other people, however, being Jewish is primarily a matter of belief [hence the Sammy Davis, Jr.'s of the world]. According to this view, then, I "gave up" being Jewish when I converted to Christianity. This view, by the way, is held both by mother, who converted to Christianity, and my grandmother, who did not. My mother's views are, I believe, a direct response to Hitler's attempts to wipe out the Jewish "race" during the holocaust -- since Hitler kept referring to the Jewish people as a separate [inferior] race, my mother and many other people now reject the idea of Jewish people being a separate race together with everything else Hitler said. Personally, I think this is a case of throwing out the baby with the bath water. I have no problem with thinking of Jewish people as a separate race -- it's the "inferior" part and the "they should all be wiped out" part which I reject. What I find most interesting is that many people (including my grandmother) who no longer consider me Jewish themselves do not follow many of the core Jewish beliefs. For example, my grandmother, who escaped from Germany during the Holocaust, but lost most of her family, is an avowed atheist.

In any case, I grew up in a Mormon household [which, contrary to what some people may think, is a Christian faith -- "Mormon" is a nickname for members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints]. I have one older brother, Michael, and two younger siblings -- a younger brother named Jonathan, and a younger sister named Toby. I attended Bennet- Hemenway Elementary School, Henry Wilson Junior High School, and Natick High School, from which I graduated in 1984. I was admitted to the National Honor Society my senior year, although, to be honest I didn't really apply myself academically -- I tried my best to get by with as little work possible. Fortunately [or not, depending on your point of view], I was intelligent enough to get away with this, and aware enough to know what things absolutely had to get done, which is to say I did manage to graduate. I also got quite involved with music, and sang in two high-school choirs and had leads in two musicals ("Lazar Wolf" in "Fiddler on the Roof" and "Judd" in "Oklahoma") I also sang at Districts and All-States for each of my three years at the High School.

After high school I attended a year of college at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah. I declared my major as chemical engineering, primarily because I had taken a lot of science and math courses in high school and didn't know what else I could do with my life. I soon discovered that, while I enjoyed the theory behind chemistry, I didn't care for the practical end of things (titration experiments, etc.) I also learned that I absolutely loathed calculus! Needless to say (although I'll say it anyway), I was not a happy camper, especially since I still had no idea what else I could do with my life! The only really positive part about my freshman year was singing with the BYU Concert Choir, directed by Mack Wilberg.

After my freshman year (which I finished up with something like a 2.4 GPA), I took 2 years off from school to serve a voluntary mission for my church, preaching the Gospel. Missionaries aren't given a choice as to where they will serve, or even in what language. I had secretly hoped that I would go somewhere foreign and exotic where I could speak English, since I had tried learning Spanish in high school and had failed miserably. Someplace like England or Australia would have been just fine with me. Of course, I ended up being sent to Idaho, where I was asked to teach in Spanish. I spent two months of preparation at the Missionary Training Center, primarily learning how to speak Spanish. My first day there I was told to visit MTC president (President Bishop), who gave me a special blessing. As part of the blessing he blessed me with "the gift of tongues" so that I might be able to do those things I had been asked to do. The amazing thing was that within 3 weeks I was speaking Spanish fluently, and by the time I left I was speaking it like a native. To this day, many native speakers don't believe me when I tell them I was born and raised here in the United States!

In spite of my success with learning Spanish, however, my mission was probably the most difficult thing I will ever do in my entire life. I've always been extremely annoyed at telemarketers, door-to-door salesmen, and especially missionaries from a certain other church (which shan't be named, but suffice to say their representatives don't take "no" very easily ...). In spite of the fact that I truly believed in the message I was asked to deliver, I constantly felt uncomfortable, essentially doing unto others that which I hated being done unto me. I did have many positive experiences, though, and I don't regret having done it.

While serving my mission, I had a chance to reflect on what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. Through discussion with some people I came to know and admire, and what I can only call personal revelatory experiences, I decided to change my major to philosophy, in preparation for entering law school. This was very scary because I had never done particularly well in English during high school, and I hated writing papers, which I knew would be required of me in both philosophy and law. I also had no idea what sort of law I wanted to eventually practice -- I just knew I should go to law school.

So, I finished up my mission, returned to BYU and switched my major to philosophy. I learned to think analytically and argue logically. I learned to express myself via the written word (although I still hated writing long papers). And I started doing very well, academically. I got a 4.0 one semester, a 3.98 another and ended up making the Dean's list three times. Throughout it all, I continued to sing. In addition to singing with the Concert Choir, I started auditioning for roles in the annual opera productions. My first role was that of Zuniga in Bizet's "Carmen". It was a small role, but a review in a local paper singled me out as bringing an "unusually high quality of singing" to the part. The following year, in the off-season, I got the part of "death" in a small, one-act opera by Gustav Holst entitled "Savitri". The opera only had three characters, and each character was of equal importance. I had been taking voice lessons in the meantime, and my performance was probably the best vocal singing I had ever done. In addition to the operas, I also performed in a couple of award recitals. I didn't win any scholarships (primarily because I wasn't a declared music major), but it was an honor to be asked to perform anyway.

I graduated with a B.A. in philosophy in April 1990, and started law school the following Fall. I had applied to, and been accepted with a scholarship by, the law school at BYU (the "J. Reuben Clark School of Law"). Many people told me I should go elsewhere -- somewhere "more prestigious" -- but, once again, I felt strongly that I should stay where I was.

After my first year of law school, since I hadn't lined up any summer clerkships back in Boston, I decided to stay in Utah and look for summer work out there. Things were not going well. I got a number of interviews, but everyone kept asking "Why are you applying for work out here if you are from Massachusetts?" Of course, firms back home were probably looking at my résumé and thinking "why is he applying for work here if he is going to school in Utah?". Anyway, things were getting a little desperate, financial-wise, and I was in the process of filling out an application for the local 7-Eleven when the phone rang. It was a law professor who needed someone to do a little research work for him. It wasn't much, but it was enough to keep me alive until I could find more work. I worked for Professor Goldsmith for about a month when I received another phone call. This time it was a guy I knew from my undergraduate days as a philosophy major who was also attending BYU law school. He was working for another law professor, Cole Durham, and Professor Durham was looking for someone with a philosophy background to be his research assistant.

So, I started working for professor Durham. I spent a month doing mindless grunt work -- summarizing philosophy texts so he didn't have to read them, helping him clean his office in preparation for a trip to Europe, etc. During this time, Professor Durham was involved in a joint project with another professor who had helped design a computer system for automating various practice areas in the law (called CAPS for Computer Assisted Practice Systems). After I had worked for Professor Durham for a month, the other professor (Larry Farmer) called him with a problem -- it seemed Professor Farmer desperately needed another research assistant for the joint project, but had used up all the hours allotted to him for paying assistants. Was it possible that he could borrow one of Professor Durham's assistants?

So, I started working for Professor Farmer. I started off primarily doing data entry, sometimes thirteen hours at a stretch. I got exposure to the programming language used by the system, however, and eventually began doing some basic programming. I continued working for him after the school year started, until I had to stop because I developed a minor case of carpal tunnel syndrome in my wrists. Professor Farmer told me about a man named Cliff Jones who was his first research assistant 10 years ago, and who now had his own CAPS consulting company in Massachusetts. Although I was still determined to practice law, I met with Cliff over Christmas break. Cliff's company, the Capstone Group, Inc., was very small -- it consisted of only himself and a partner who only worked part-time (I guess that's why he was called a "part"ner, eh?). Oh yeah -- by this time my parents had announced that they were planning on getting a divorce, but that's their story, not mine ...

My final year in law school I decided to actually take the CAPS classes which Professor Farmer was teaching, primarily because I felt bad working for him and never actually taking his class. I really enjoyed the classes, and even ended up getting the highest grade of all the students in the advanced class (I know because I got a nifty little certificate in the mail). For my final project I ended up working with Cliff Jones' part-time partner at the Capstone Group, Inc., Marc Lauritsen (who was also a Senior Research Associate for Practice Technology at Harvard Law School at the time). I found that all the logic classes I had taken as a philosophy major really helped in computer programming. Of course, it was still just a side-light -- at most, I thought, I could do a little programming on the side when I get a real law job...

And so it went, until three days before law school graduation. I still hadn't lined up a job, and I was debating whether to go back to Boston, where the job market was incredibly tight (we were right in the middle of the Recession and Massachusetts was listed as having the worst economy in the nation), or possibly to Washington state, where I had received an offer to do some part- time work which might possibly turn into regular employment. What to do, what to do ...

And then, fate intervened, in the form of a Pontiac 6000 going upwards of 60 mph. You know, Chevy Sprints aren't bad little cars, I mean they get great mileage and everything, but trust me, you DON'T want to be driving in one when you are sideswiped by a Pontiac 6000!!! The last thing I remember was pulling up to an intersection, looking both ways, and thinking "as soon as this car on the right goes by, I can go." The next thing I know, I'm flat on my back, totally blind, and being loaded into an ambulance. I apparently suffered a concussion, which would explain both the temporary blindness (I could see by the next morning) and why I have no memory of the actual crash. I also ended up with my pelvis fractured in three places.

Well, my parents were planning on coming out to Utah for my graduation anyway. Instead, they ended up coming out a few days early to pack up everything I owned (well, almost everything, but, hey -- they tried) and ship it home. I stayed in the hospital for eight days until I was stable enough to get on an airplane, and then I flew home to stay with my mother (by this time my father was living in his own apartment). I did end up graduating [cum laude, no less!] -- I had taken all my finals except one, which they let me waive -- and the Dean presented me with my diploma at the hospital.

So there I was -- living with my mom, confined to bed, in pain, no job, no social life, no nothing. I couldn't even take the bar review course, because I couldn't sit up for long periods of time. After some thought, and a lot of encouragement from my father, I decided to sign up to take the bar exam anyway. It wasn't until July, which was three months away, and it only cost about $200 (as opposed to the $1300 they charge for the review course). I figured that I would most certainly not pass, but at least it would better prepare me for the next time I took it. I bought a generic multi-state bar review book to study the multiple-choice portion of the test, but I had no materials with which to study the Massachusetts-specific essay portion (worth one-half of the total score). All I had were my class notes from BYU law which, considering all the hype about the absolute need to take a state-specific review course, did not exactly instill me with a great deal of confidence.

So, I took the bar. By that time I was finally off crutches and allowed to walk with a cane, but it still hurt to sit for long periods of time. The bar exam itself consisted of four three-hour sessions over a 2 day period. I rushed through the answers for each section as quickly as I could, finishing about an hour early for each section, at which point I would stand up and find someplace to lie down. I'm sure people who saw me leave early every time got a little ticked off at me, thinking I was showing off how quickly I took the test. I would have liked to have stayed and checked my work and spend more time on the essays, but I was too sore to stay sitting.

And you know what? I passed. I can think of 4 possible reasons for this: (1) I am, like Wile E. Coyote, a "super genius"; (2) BYU really prepared me well; (3) The bar really isn't as hard as its cracked up to be, and the entire bar review course thing is a total scam; or (4) the Lord was really helping me. I don't know for sure, but I'd like to think it was a little of each.

Well, the bar results didn't come back until late October and, while I was waiting, I talked to Cliff Jones some more. He said that, although they were not prepared to hire me full-time, they could offer me some part-time independent contracting work. That was just fine with me, since I wasn't physically ready to work full-time, anyway.

In January of 1994, Cliff and Marc officially asked me to work for The Capstone Group as a full-time, salaried employee, and I started designing legal practice systems for a living. The following June, Cliff decided to move his family, and the company, to Arizona, while at the same time I moved out of my mother's house and got my own apartment in Somerville (right next to Cambridge). Marc stayed here as well, and I began working part of the time directly with him, and telecommuting with Cliff the rest of the time.

In many respects, I feel that I lost a year of my life because of the accident. Even my social life was pretty non-existent during that time. But now, everything is pretty much back to normal. I get little twinges when it rains, but I play volleyball for three hours every Monday night. I have joined two local choirs here in the Boston area -- I even traveled to Germany and Switzerland with one of them in October of 1994. And I really love my job! Telecommuting is definitely the way to go. I mean, I get up at 8:00 a.m., take a shower, get dressed, eat a leisurely breakfast while reading the paper, and then "commute" all the way into my living room. My job requires a lot of direct phone communication with our various clients, so I don't even feel lonely during the day.

Was the car accident a "blessing in disguise"? I don't really know. I do know that if it weren't for the accident I probably wouldn't have this job, and I might not even be here in Massachusetts. Although I felt some pain when I sat too long at one time, I have no memory of the accident itself and was confined to bed until I could walk without pain. I'd hate to think that the Lord has to hit me with a car to get my attention, but you never know ....