Builder or Wrecker?

By James E. Harper, Esq.

This month’s issue [Communiqué (April 2021)] includes six excellent articles related to bankruptcy. I am grateful for the authors who contributed to the issue. I am especially grateful for Judge Natalie M. Cox making time in her schedule for an interview by Ogonna Brown (see page 18).

The CCBA continues to be fiscally sound and operate within the revenue it receives from generous sponsors, membership dues, advertising income, and income generated from CLE events and CCBA functions—even in the midst of a global pandemic that has stifled the traditional annual income producing functions like the 40-Year Club Luncheon and Meet Your Judges. I am grateful for the prudence exercised by past CCBA presidents and executive board members who set and adhered to annual budgets.

Equally or perhaps more important than the CCBA’s financial wellbeing, however, is the association’s members’ moral wellbeing. Are we avoiding the pitfalls of moral bankruptcy, i.e, amorality? (Not to be confused with immorality, which refers to doing or thinking something known or believed to be wrong.) Amorality is an absence of, indifference towards, disregard, or incapacity for morality. Does a self-inventory reveal deficiencies of any particular qualities or values? Are we honoring the qualities and values set forth in the Lawyer’s Pledge of Professionalism adopted by the founding members of the CCBA?

A reflection on my moral solvency brought to mind the poem by Charles Franklin Benvegar, “A Builder Or a Wrecker.”

As I watched them tear a building down
A gang of men in a busy town
With a ho-heave-ho, and a lusty yell
They swung a beam and the side wall fell

I asked the foreman, “Are these men skilled,
And the men you’d hire if you wanted to build?”
He gave a laugh and said, “No, indeed,
Just common labor is all I need.”

“I can easily wreck in a day or two,
What builders have taken years to do.”
And I thought to myself, as I went my way
Which of these roles have I tried to play’

Am I a builder who works with care
Measuring life by rule and square?
Am I shaping my work to a well-made plan
Patiently doing the best I can’

Or am I a wrecker who walks to town
Content with the labor of tearing down?
“O Lord let my life and my labors be
That which will build for eternity!”

As advocates, it easy to confuse courtesy and civility with weakness and defeat. But we must not wreck when we can build. Just as annual budgeting and accountability aids the CCBA to avoid insolvency and continue to flourish financially, regularly reviewing the qualities and values that we pledged to uphold as members of the association will enable us to avoid morally bankrupting what our predecessors started building in 1934.

We are not common laborers that wreck. We are an association of Clark County lawyers who build.

About the author
james e. harper

James E. Harper is the founding member of Harper Selim, PLLC, a civil and commercial litigation firm. James’s practice is focused on insurance matters, including coverage and bad faith, and appellate matters. James is president of the CCBA through December 2021.

About this article

This article was originally published in the “Bankruptcy Law” issue of Communiqué, the official publication of the Clark County Bar Association, (April 2021). See https://clarkcountybar.org/about/member-benefits/communique-2021/communique-april-2021/.

© 2021 Clark County Bar Association (CCBA). All rights reserved. No reproduction of any portion of this issue is allowed without written permission from the publisher. Editorial policy available upon request.