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Kim Lowe served as the 2015-2016 HCBA President. Views expressed here are her own.


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What's Going On?

Posted By Kim Lowe, Tuesday, June 14, 2016

A One Act Scene

The scene opens with the Transformers Optimus Prime and Bumblebee from Michael Bay’s live-action movie sitting around a table in their auto form reading today’s Orlando Sentinel.  

[Scene Note: Due to a battle injury, Bumblebee is mute and communicates through use of selected playback of radio and television signals.] With a quizzical lift of his distinctive Chevy Camaro brow, Bumblebee looks at Optimus Prime while the following lyrics from Marvin Gaye’s 1971 What’s Going On play from his radio:

Mother, mother
There's too many of you crying
Brother, brother, brother
There's far too many of you dying
You know we've got to find a way
To bring some lovin' here today, eheh

: [Scene Note: Optimus raises his tire to his forehead, scratching his head]: “I don’t know what is going on Bumblebee.  Our human friends seem to be losing all sense of themselves.” 

: [Scene Note:  Bumblebee looks at Optimus with an angry bent to his bumper while Aerosmith’s 1989 Janie's Got a Gun plays from his radio]

Janie's got a gun
Janie's got a gun
Her dog day's just begun
Now everybody is on the run
Tell me now it's untrue
What did her daddy do?

: “Yes! Bumblebee, I agree.  Guns do seem to be much of the problem.  But alas, our human friends do not seem to be able to solve this problem, so the senseless loss of life continues.   What can we do?” 

[Scene Note: Bumblebee gestures madly with his tires as Alien Ant Farm’s cover of Michael Jackson’s Smooth Criminal spills from his speakers.  His point not from the lyrics but the title]

: “I agree Bumblebee. There are criminals in this world who are smoothly accessing guns and using them to harm people out of irrational hate.  But yet again, what can we do?”    

[Scene Note: Bumblebee gazes longingly out the window towards the distant sky while the beautiful voice of Judy Garland sings Over the Rainbow from the 1939 Wizard of Oz]:

Somewhere over the rainbow, way up high
There's a land that I've heard of once in a lullaby.
Somewhere over the rainbow, skies are blue
And the dreams that you dare to dream,
Really do come true.

: “Oh Bumblebee.  I know how you feel.  This is a great country where many have come for centuries to find that place over the rainbow.  This is a land of great promise and opportunity, if only . . .

[Scene Note: Optimus also looks longingly out the window at the stars.  Bumblebee puts his tire on Optimus’s fender while Barbara Streisand’s Memory from the 1981 hit Broadway show Cats fills the room].

: “If only the leaders of our human friends can find the political will and courage to put a stop to the legal madness that continually allows guns to fall into the hands of those who use them for senseless mass murder.  Bumblebee, as you dream, we could hit the skies.  We could leave this planet and travel to Asgard where we could bunk down with the Gods.  But giving up is not the answer.  I cannot help but recall my own line from the end of Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen:   

Our races united by a history long forgotten and a future we shall face together. I am Optimus Prime, and I send this message so that our past will always be remembered: for in those memories, we live on.”  

[Scene Note: Bumblebee and Optimus Prime bro hug while John Lennon’s Imagine plays in the background.]

[Scene Note: the angry voice of a bar president fills the room]: “We should all ask ourselves what can we do as officers of the court.  By virtue of our license and with the collective power of the legal profession, our voice is loud and cannot easily be dismissed.  We cannot just keep ignoring the fact that the perpetrators of these mass killings have obtained the guns used in the heinous crimes far too easily.” 


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The Powerful Women: Sasha Fierce and Elizabeth Bennet

Posted By HCBA President Kimberly A. Lowe, Thursday, May 26, 2016

As I contemplate the power of women this fine morning, two very different but equally important female characters created by two powerful women come immediately to mind.  These characters come to mind because they personify their creators who are, without a doubt, two of the most important and powerful creators in their chosen professions. 

The first, and only because she is by far the oldest, is Jane Austen’s Elizabeth BennetJane Austen is considered by many to be one of the greatest novelists of all time.  Her six novels have been read by countless generations.  My personal favorite is Emma but most credit Pride and Prejudice (and Elizabeth Bennet) as her best (or at least the most popular) work.  Elizabeth Bennet is one of British Literature’s most beloved characters.  She is a powerful archetype who has transcended the pages of her novel world to change the perceptions of the role and lives of women.  Through Lizzy, Jane Austenan unmarried daughter who lived with her family her entire liferendered a character who still impacts lives today, centuries after she first appeared on the literary scene. 

So you must be asking yourself why am I babbling about Jane Austen, Lizzy and powerful women.  Well, thinking about the power of Jane Austen’s pen (or was it a quill?) puts our recent visitor to the Twin Cities – Beyonce – into fine company.  Beyonce has been selling albums and filling stadiums it seems like forever.  From Destiny’s Child’s Bootylicious to Crazy In Love to Formation (trust me, a little too rough for this family blog), she has been dazzling the world with her talent.  What makes her relevant to my thoughts, however, is that she admittedly performs while in the character of her alter ego Sasha Fierce.   While it goes without saying she is a powerful woman, Beyoncé’s need for an alter ego to perform at her level speaks to the power of imagination and art as well as the pressure to separate life from work.   

Now stay with me.  As a women lawyer, I have certainly taken on an alter ego (sometimes more than one) to navigate the practice of law.   When I started practicing business law there just weren’t that many female lawyers practicing transactional law.  The board room was (and in some ways still is) a man’s world.  To succeed I needed to create a character who embodied the best parts of who I really am, but who was able to navigate a world that was foreign to me and to whom I was foreign.  So when I think about Jane and Beyonce and Lizzy and Sasha, I think about how we all have to use imagination, courage, and art to navigate our professional careers as lawyers.  

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Time and IKEA

Posted By HCBA President Kimberly A. Lowe, Monday, May 16, 2016

I had an ambitious plan this weekend to coordinate my outdoor yard furniture.  I have hit that magic place in the temporal reality of home ownership where I have accumulated a hodge-podge of random stuff for my yard— kind of the urban yard equivalent of a hot mess.  I considered spray painting all of the random tables, chairs, and benches a matching color and then buying all new cushions and umbrellas to bring some sort of cohesion to my urban oasis, but once I figured out the time necessary to undertake this thankless exercise, I realized I should just buy new furniture.  The cost-benefit analysis of time crept into my thought process. 

That regularly happens to me as I navigate life’s little adventure.   You see, I have been keeping track of my life in six-minute intervals for almost 18 years.  How much revenue was I losing if I spray painted my existing lawn furniture?  A lot.  So of course, I went to Ikea and bought all new coordinating furniture for my yard.   Fast forward through four trips to Ikea, a pile of cardboard the height of a teenager, 17 Allen wrenches, team lifting, and roughly two days of assembling furniture and, all I can think of is Cher’s 1989 adult-contemporary rock anthem If I Could Turn Back Time .   

I never really thought about how considering life in six- minute intervals impacts the soul until I spent a weekend assembling Ikea furniturealso a soul-sucking experience.  For lawyers, our time is the widget we sell.  We basically let clients rent the output of our brains six minutes at a time.  While this rental arrangement can be generally lucrative for us lawyers, breaking our professional life into billable hours and then increments of billable hours imposes a bizarre value judgment on how we as lawyers go through life spending our time.  Think of the 2011 Justin Timberlake movie In Time where citizens are required to barter for time in order to stay youthful and alive.   Ouch!  But in some ways, it’s not that different than the economic reality we have made for ourselves as a profession.   We often judge our success as lawyers on how “busy” we are or how many hours we billed in a given year.  We even measure our professional obligations in terms of billable hours. See Minnesota Rules of Professional Conduct 6.1, where a “lawyer should aspire to render at least 50 hours of pro bono publico legal services per year.” 

I recognize that the billable hour is an artificial measure that we created in order to capture payment for our services, but as we struggle as a profession with substance abuse, depression and anxiety, and high suicide rates, we should consider what this “measure of our economic productivity” has imposed on us as human beings.  I for one know that I struggle with measuring my worth by hours billedalmost as much as I struggled with building Ikea furniture.  Ironically, while billing hours and building Ikea furniture are similar, at least my Ikea experience has resulted in a zen-like urban oasis.   You have to admit that looks good!  

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Hello, Again, Hello

Posted By HCBA President Kimberly A. Lowe, Thursday, May 12, 2016

On May 4, 2016 the HCBA and the 4th Judicial District held the annual Bar Memorial where the memorials for members of the profession who passed in the prior year are presented, celebrated and then archived with the court. This time-honored event stands as one of the HCBA’s most important traditions. As president of the HCBA, it was my honor to provide remarks at this event.  These remarks are below.

* * * *

Thank You and Good Morning and May it Please the Court:

As I thought about my words for today, I considered my typical paths to inspiration. Those of you who have read my blog know I tend to look to literature and pop culture for thematic ideas. As I read the wonderful memorials celebrating the lives of our colleagues, Neil Diamond's Hello Again, a 1980's ballad from the movie The Jazz Singer popped into my head. 

The song concludes:

Hello, my friend, hello
Just called to let you know
I think of about you every night
And I know it's late
But I couldn't wait

While clearly a love song, the simple grace of these words, especially if you can hear them in your head sung by Neil Diamond with his unforgettable voice, sets a tone for today and why we are here.  We can say to each of the lawyers whose lives we honor and celebrate today. 

Hello, my friend, hello.

But the men and women we are celebrating today were more than just our figurative friends.  Said best in a quote memorializing Gene Henning, these lawyers are part of our lives and our profession:

“If to be loved by your family, if to be strong in your faith, if to be admired for your talents, if to be esteemed by your friends, if to be beloved for your generosity and kindness -- can gratify the human mind you must have the pleasing consolation to know that you have lived an exemplary life, have won the hearts of your countrymen, and have made the world a better place.  Please be assured that so long as we retain our memories, you will be recollected with respect, admiration, and deep affection by your sincere friends who have known and worked with you.”

This is what this morning is about—a chance to gather, to remember, and to honor; and a chance to share the stories of the lives of our remarkable colleagues.

Today we remember 49 men and women.  All of whom had families and friends.  Many of whom not only had children, but grand-children and great grand-children.  Many of whom lived long lives, (one to the age of 104) while some passed away too early.  All of them, of course, were members of the legal profession but many also had professional experiences in business, government, the academy and even professional sports.  I break from tradition and leave the specifics of their stories for each of you to read.  

For their stories are best told by the family members, friends and professional colleagues who wrote each memorial.  Their stories remind me of a favorite line from Walt Whitman's Leaves of Grass:

I SING the Body electric;
The armies of those I love engirth me, and I engirth them;
They will not let me off till I go with them, respond to them,
And discorrupt them,
and charge them full with the charge of the Soul.

You see, those that we celebrate today lived personal and professional lives charged with soul. They embodied what is best about our profession and the people who populate it.  The stories of their remarkable journeys and the lives that they touched provide us with inspiration.  So as you read the memorials, please consider the inspirational lives of our colleagues and friends that will become part of this Honorable Courts archives.

Our friends, our family members, our colleagues will live on in our memories.  So to all those we celebrate and honor today:  

Hello, my friends, hello!


View 2016 Bar Memorial Booklet

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It's Tax Day!

Posted By HCBA President Kimberly A. Lowe, Monday, April 18, 2016

Today is Tax Day in the United States.  I know, I know.  April 15 is the actual due date for individual taxes.  But for whatever reason, this year taxes are due today.  And how can I let a Tax Day pass without some thoughts on taxes, popular culture and being a lawyer? 

I would be remiss if I did not mention that, while lawyers “tend” to be somewhat more liberal than conservative as a profession, (see data from The Political Ideologies of American Lawyers), like most people, we don’t really like paying taxes.  But, as licensed professionals, we did take an oath swearing that we “will support the Constitution of the United States and that of the state of Minnesota.” And it is pretty much settled law (for most of us at least) that both the state and the federal government have the authority to levy and collect taxes.  Without taxes, there would be no way for the government (including the courts) to function. But like I said, no one really likes the act of paying taxes, even if we know both personally and professionally that they are a necessary component of a functioning society. 

But to find really interesting popular culture considering taxes, we need to go back a few years. 

In song, we must consider the Beatles' 1966 Taxman.  George Harrison’s lyrics indict England’s tax system hilariously:

If you drive a car, I’ll tax the street
If you try to sit, I’ll tax your seat
If you get too cold, I’ll tax the heat
If you take a walk, I’ll tax your feet

In a counter position, Creedence Clearwater Revival’s 1969 anti-wealth anthem Fortunate Son  casts the tax collector as the good guy. 

And it is not just in song that taxes and the Internal Revenue Service, the agency to collects taxes, are celebrated or maligned.  No blog about taxes would be complete without mentioning the role the IRS and taxes (or the failure to pay them) have played in capturing some of this nation’s most notorious criminals.  Brian De Palma’s 1987 crime drama The Untouchables pits Robert De Niro’s Al Capone against Kevin Costner’s “Prohibition Agent” Elliot Ness.  While the film celebrates Ness’s pursuit of Capone, it was IRS agent Frank Wilson (not in the film) who investigated Capone for tax evasion. The only crime Capone was ever convicted of was tax evasion! 

So as we all rush to file our taxes, let’s remember that while taxes may not be our friend, they are necessary to fund the system of justice in which we practice law. Besides, some very interesting songs and films exist that consider the tax man and his/her role in our lives.  

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