William Dreyfoos’ “War Story”: How a “Chaos Theory” Call Taught Me to Always Take Notes

William Dreyfoos’ “War Story”: How a “Chaos Theory” Call Taught Me to Always Take Notes

Senior law practitioner and SynerG member Bill Dreyfoos shared this “SynerG War Story” about an unusual and fascinating phone call early in his legal career that he failed to take any notes about and the lessons he learned from the experience: At the beginning of my career, in the 1980’s, I was an environmental attorney in private practice in Charleston.  In addition to handling local concerns involving environmentally sensitive lands and water quality, I was involved in a variety of matters on the national level, such as the early considerations of climate change  –  so I would get a variety of inquiries from unknown callers, from unexpected places.  Late one Friday afternoon, I received the call of my practice, and while I can remember the outlines of it, the call lasted for 20 minutes, and I long ago forgot most of the details.

I don’t know who the caller was.  He was concerned about climate change, and in particular, the melting of the glaciers in Antarctica.  He was not from Charleston, but he called me because I was an environmental attorney there, and he wanted to make sure someone in Charleston knew the story he would tell.  I guess so I could help save the Antarctic glaciers.  What followed was a convoluted tale that spanned many subjects, connecting them in unexpected ways, touching on climate change, the inter-connectedness of the environment, glaciers, and civic responsibility – none of which I remember.  But the upshot came at the end:  the reason the glaciers in Antarctica were melting was the ringing of the church bells in St. Michael’s Church in the center of downtown Charleston!  Who knew?

For those unfamiliar with Charleston, St. Michael’s is one of the buildings at the Four Corners of Law, at the intersection of Broad Street and Meeting Street, built in the 18th and 19th centuries in the very center of historic Charleston.  St. Michael’s is the tallest church in the old part of the city, with a white steeple from which the bells ring, and is the oldest and most prestigious church in historic Charleston.  It anchors one of the Four Corners – and is said to embody God’s law.  The buildings flanking St. Michael’s, on the other 3 corners, are City Hall (city law), the old County Court House (state law), and the Post Office (federal law).

The bells of St. Michael’s ring throughout the day, and have measured out the pace of life in downtown Charleston for centuries.  Never before had I been aware of any connection between them and the glaciers of Antarctica.  But as I sat in my office in downtown Charleston on a Friday afternoon, my caller set out a gift before me.  It was the revelation of my entire environmental law practice, and the confirmation of what the people of Charleston have always known: that what happens in Charleston really does control what happens throughout the world!

I was amazed.  I was amused.  And I missed most of it – because I didn’t write it down.

Nowadays, there are options for the prudent practitioner:  you can record your telephone conversations, you can put the caller on the speaker and free up your hands to type on the computer, or you can use old-fashioned note-taking, either during the conversation, or immediately following it.  You don’t have to rely solely on your memory.  Unfortunately, that’s what I did.  And as the years have fallen away, so has my recollection of the details of the wild ride that starts with the ringing of the bells of St. Michael’s and, through a convoluted sequence of causes and effects, ends with the melting of the glaciers in Antarctica.

The bells of St. Michael’s still ring each day.  The glaciers in Antarctica continue to melt.  And now I know why.  But like the Wizard of Oz, I don’t know how it works.  So sadly, I have been unable to use the wisdom imparted to me in that call long ago, and my chance to save the Antarctic glaciers was lost.  All because I didn’t take notes.

And that’s how I became a sadder but wiser practitioner of the law.

William W. Dreyfoos, Bill’s practice at the Senior Law Services of Georgia, LLC includes a wide range of legal matters confronting aging seniors and their families.

SynerG Member since May 2018, www.seniorlawgeorgia.com, https://synerglawcomplex.com/team-members/william-dreyfoos/

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