The Making of a Savoir-Faire Maverick
From his upbringing in a small Tennessee town, through his education and career as an attorney, to the realization of his goal to be a professional public speaker, here are a few of the highlights of Rick's journey in his own words about his personal and professional quest to learn and share all he can on the subject of know-how and his views on the importance of being of service to others.
ATTORNEY | SPEAKER | VOLUNTEER
Passionately curious about everything. That is how I would best describe myself. I have always had an deep fascination about the interconnectedness of things. I have been a seeker my entire life. I have always had a love of learning and an insatiable obsession about how the world worked.
I understood at an extremely young age that knowledge was more than just information and that to be truly skilled at something one also needed a keen sense of how all of the information came together and to know exactly what to do with it. And for that I learned that one needed a passion for wanting to know what it all meant.
By the time I was twenty-one I had survived three near death experiences with no harm and no permanent effects other than the life-long realization that the real miracle of life and the real gift of living is not just that life itself is the most fragile, delicate and valuable thing ever to come into existence and how much it is worth fighting for but that the real purpose we are here is to find our one true self and once having made that discovery, to then become the best and most authentic version of ourselves we can possibly be. Those experiences gave me an even more keenly focused curiosity, actually more of an obsession, with "learning everything possible about everything possible." Those who knew a bit about those experiences and who saw me go headlong into becoming a hospice volunteer largely because of it were always interested to know if the experiences had caused me to not be afraid of dying. "Better than that," I always like to explain, "it has caused me to not be afraid of living."
Far too many people go through life afraid of living life at all much less to its fullest. Instead of fearing their final day, they worry about their next day. Fear and worry are practically the same thing and might as well be because their effect is identical. And the totality of their combined effect is devastating. Everyone worries about some things but some people worry about everything. No one should worry about anything. Concern? Yes. Worry? No. Most people unfortunately believe that fear and worry are so much a part of one's normal day-to-day existence that they are unavoidable and must simply be accepted as an unpleasant but necessary part of life. I have learned not to be consumed by fear, worry and anxiety which all dwell on the negative side of "what if..." and which focus on the mere fact that there exist a problem of some sort whereas concern, interest and fixated involvement dwell on the positive side of it all and focus on the intended discovery of a solution.
Set Yourself Apart From The Herd
If what it truly means to be a philosopher is to mentally process ideas . . . to think and then to feel, and then based upon all of our thoughts and emotions to think further and feel deeper, then we are all philosophers. And being a philosopher then, is part of being human.
What I learned most from all of the experiences I had personally and from all that I witnessed or learned about from the lives of others is that we care far too much about what other people think. What sets me apart from others more than anything else is that I absolutely and unequivocally do not care what other people think. However, I do care with every passionate emotion I have, about how other people think.
After passing countless hours in dialogues, debates and even well-meaning arguments with friends and colleagues; after traversing oceans of books, articles and editorials; after what feels like an eternity of experiences and long hours of pondering, wondering and questioning, I finally realized that the real point of anything is simply to be and in time to become more of what you truly are: to simply become better.
To raise one's self above the ideas of the time is a worthy goal - worthy of a lifetime of effort. Our thoughts and our feelings should take us to new ideas. In doing so we raise ourselves above not only the ideas of the times but also our own ideas. But to truly raise ourselves to a higher level we must then actually act upon the newly created thoughts, feelings and beliefs which we now hold with real intention and honest effort.
The truth that I have come to know and understand is that the purpose of life is simply to constantly improve life itself: not to just 'be,' but to be and then to change . . . to become better than before; everyday, a better version of that which already exists . . . to always seek higher ground and make it to the next level.
To be you . . . but to become a better you . . . and ultimately, to become the best version of you that there can be.
Early in my legal career as an attorney I became known for taking the difficult cases, the unpopular and controversial cases, and in high profile areas such as the political arena and in the entertainment industry. And I did so as a solo practitioner which earned me the reputation of being a maverick, a totally independent actor and thinker.
In explaining my desire to take on the most challenging of causes I have stated on many occasions that I did not become an attorney to make friends but to make a difference. Even before my legal career I was known among my friends and colleagues as being a person who would not give in to peer pressure. It is a lesson I learned early on as young man and it has served me very well.
Extreme individuality is not for everyone . . . but neither is extreme conformity. Outside of having a strong allegiance to a cause, I have never really seen the benefit of being interchangeable with someone else. I would rather see my name placed upon the list marked 'rare find' than the one marked 'surplus.'
The world is full of powerful outside influences and while it is hard to swim against the current, sometimes we must because the flow does not always travel in the direction we have chosen. I can't say that other people's opinions of you don't matter. They do. That has everything to do with your reputation and your reputation does matter. And it is not to be confused with your character. The former is perception while the latter is truth. But that's not the problem. The problem is that we allow other people's opinions about us to matter too much. Just be what you will . . . and just let other people think what they will. While you may indeed have some influence over it, ultimately you will eventually realize that you have absolutely no control over it.
No one should ever have a higher expectation of you than you do of yourself. And if that is still of concern to you, then just remember that if you live up to your own expectations, then you will never fail to meet anyone else's. Regardless, always bear in mind that others are typically far more concerned with their own problems than with yours. So any dwelling upon your shortcomings, or your achievements for that matter by others will be short-lived.
Being an independent thinker does not mean that you can't be a member of a group or participate in group thought. On the contrary, I have found that the element of individuality is oftentimes the necessary spark of inspiration that sets the power of group thought in motion. So if everyone in the room is a right brain dominant thinker, then they still only have half a brain between them.*
Likewise, if everyone in a group thinks the same thing, then no one is thinking hard enough. Every point of view has more than just an opposite viewpoint and quantum physics has shown that every coin actually has more than two sides.
At the same time though, I have seen that individualists may tend to be too judgmental in their non-acceptance of mainstream thought and may even steer toward elitism. This is a huge mistake stretching across a wide ranging spectrum and falling somewhere between offensive character flaw at one end and bad manners at the other. If you have to constantly tell people that you are different and unique, then you're not. Originality needs no explanation.
I have observed that people often worry that if they express their individuality they will then find themselves alone. But the truth is that conformists are just as capable of finding themselves all alone. On the brighter side however, when presented with the opportunity to exercise our freedom of association, people most often understandably choose the remarkable over the ordinary.
Always remember that "yourself" is exactly that: it is your self and no one else's. Everyone else has their own.
Progress is the evolution of inevitable change. It is the loud, stern charge of the ages that came before us, it is the startling, internal voice of the living and it is the silent, expectant plea of the ages to come. The longer a person journeys through the decades, the more their philosophical ideas and battle-won beliefs shape the structural reality of their being. Self-progression is part of our nature.
* While it appears that recent ongoing medical research has revealed the notion of right brain or left brain hemisphere dominance to be a myth, my metaphor still serves a purpose (and being one of my favorites, I prefer to continue it's use.)
The Formal & The Informal . . . Learning Never Ceases
It began before I was ever enrolled in any formal school setting when I would spend endless days with my paternal grandmother, Kathleen Ricketts Batson. In her young adult career she had been a music teacher at a women's college. She made sure that every occasion we spent together carried with it a lesson of some kind. To her, everything in life was a learning opportunity and she carried her fascination with life and her curiosity of the world with her everywhere . . . and it was infectious.
I have always had an insatiable desire to learn and to achieve and to always accomplish more. I am proud to say I was bookish growing up and most every night of my childhood I fell asleep with a flashlight sitting up in bed reading our family encyclopedia. I have never believed in taking short cuts having learned that the long road has more to experience along the way. I have always expected more of myself than others did.
My parents saw this trait in me early on as well and fortunately, they believed that I could be challenged beyond what was considered normal for my age. And I was fortunate to receive a largely private school education as well as having many mentors throughout my life.
As early as high school I choose the law as my career, mainly because I realized that the role of the trial attorney as a courtroom advocate arguing cases before a judge and jury was what I knew I could do best. One aspect of my personality which I always have to keep in check is that when I observe someone doing something I always look at their effort from the point of view of what could be done to make that better. I always see people doing things and think I could do it better. I learned the need for keeping that opinion to myself but I certainly dwelled on the thought of it. I always felt that they were just not trying hard enough. And I learned everything I could from simply observing how others went about their work.
My father was a trial attorney and was regarded as one of the best in the south. Though it may sound like partiality or bias, he consistently proved this throughout his career as he was known among the judges and attorney members of the professional bar as well as the public. He had a strong reputation for winning the difficult cases. One of my favorite activities growing up was to watch him in court. I could go down to our local county courthouse and watch all the trials I wanted to any time I wanted to. And I did. I learned volumes on oral argument and presentation skills. And so I set my sights on law school and on becoming a trial attorney.
The Clarksville Academy, Class of 1978
I graduated with honors from The Clarksville Academy, a small private school in my hometown of Clarksville, Tennessee.
Notable highlights and activities include:
- Recipient, The Edward M. Norman Award (The highest honor given by the school faculty to only one senior.)
- Recipient, The Mr. TCA Award (The highest honor given by the entire school student body to only one male senior.)
- Recipient, The Scholar Athlete Award
- Recipient, The Clarksville Citizenship Award
- President, Student Government Association
- Delegate, Tennessee Boys State
- Member, National Honor Society
- Member, Varsity Teams for Football, Basketball & Tennis
- Superlative Award, "Most Likely to Succeed"
- Superlative Award, "Most Studious"
Vanderbilt University, Class of 1982
I graduated with honors from Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee with a B.A. with a double major in both Political Science and English.
Notable highlights and activities include:
- Member, Undergraduate Political Science Majors Association
- Member, Undergraduate English Majors Association
- Member, Student Government Association
- Member, Speakers & Special Events Committee
- Member, Vanderbilt Rugby Team
- Member, Sigma Alpha Epsilon
Cumberland School of Law at Samford University, Class of 1985
I graduated with honors and obtained my J.D. from Cumberland School of Law at Samford University in Birmingham, Alabama.
Notable highlights and activities include:
- Member, American Journal of Trial Advocacy
- Member, Cumberland Trial Advocacy Board
- Director, Basic Skills in Trial Advocacy Clinical Course and Competition
- Instructor, Basic Skills in Trial Advocacy, (A graded course taught to 1L students as a 3L 'student-faculty' member.)
- Recipient, Trial Advocacy Clinical Board Scholarship
- Justice, Cumberland School of Law Honor Court
- Winner, James O. Haley Federal Court Mock Trial Competition*
- Finalist, Dean Donald E. Corley Mock Trial Competition*
- Finalist, Client Counseling Competition*
- Finalist, ABA/NITA Trial Advocacy Competition
- Recipient, Dean's List Designation
- Member, Phi Delta Phi International Legal Fraternity
* I successfully challenged the Law School's then existing policy of limiting participation in trial advocacy and client counseling competitions to only one competition per semester through a special agreement with the Dean of the Law School granting Dean's Prerogative, i.e., a special exception and specific permission allowing me to compete in three competitions simultaneously on the condition that my grades remain at a level sufficient to maintain both my class rank and Dean's List standing. I successfully met those conditions competing in three competitions concurrently while winning one competition and finishing as a finalist in the remaining two events.
Better Than What Might Have Been
As an attorney I have handled cases in numerous state and federal courts at the trial and appellate level involving intellectual property law, employment law and the litigation of matters involving royalty payment disputes and professional negligence suits.
My clients and suits have involved dozens of Fortune 100 companies. Some of my cases have been featured on the front page of the Wall Street Journal (Albert Gore, Sr., Pauline Gore, Albert Gore Jr., and Tipper Gore vs. Jersey Miniere Zinc), the Court TV Channel (Cusano vs. KISS, Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley) and the Geraldo Rivera Show (DePalma vs. Metropolitan City of Nashville.)
While practicing law I had maintained offices in Tennessee and Alabama and I also associated with practices in California, Georgia and Texas.
My trial experience included cases in the trial courts of numerous states across the country and in the federal trial and appellate court systems.
I practiced in the trial and appellate courts of the Fifth Circuit, (which handles federal cases from Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas), the Sixth Circuit (which handles federal cases from Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee), the Ninth Circuit (which handles cases from Alaska, Arizona, California, Hawaii and Idaho) and the Eleventh Circuit (which handles cases from Alabama, Florida and Georgia.)
I was born a fraternal twin and have a twin sister. Since girls advance developmentally much faster than boys, my sister literally did all the talking and spoke for me. I was slow to learn to speak at all and developed a speech impediment and a language skills disorder from not being able to progress in communication skills and language development.
Because of this condition I was to meet weekly with a speech therapist. The speech therapy clinic was in Nashville and over an hour's drive from our home and my father took me there every week over a period of years to meet with my therapist.
I will never forget Miss Montgomery. At that time she was brand new to the over-burdened regional clinic I was visiting. When I was to begin my therapy we learned that I could either be placed on a waiting list for almost a year to meet with one of the more experienced therapists, or I could begin immediately with the newly graduated and newly arrived "Miss Montgomery" who was from Chicago . . . by way of Bath England originally. She had an amazing voice, an impressive vocabulary . . . and an incredible accent. I worked very hard at not only learning to speak distinctly, enunciate clearly and pronounce words correctly, but also at polishing a sharp and worldly english accent.
The lessons ran their needed course and ultimately I was pronounced cured or at least sufficiently rehabilitated to start school with no more traveling to speech therapy. And apparently all was concluded very successfully and from as early as I can remember I had the ability and the confidence to speak and often to speak publicly. In many instances, I had the best (and sometimes only) speaking part in the school play, school presentations or during assembly events.
In my later elementary school years the state provided the public school system with an after school speech therapist and my teachers had recommended this service to my parents, apparently to cancel out what had remained of my adopted english accent.
Between the years of my youth growing up in the south and the State of Tennessee's model speech therapy program for elementary schools my accent was sufficiently fixed. By the time I reached college all that remained was enough to have everyone at Vanderbilt assuming I was from Chicago.
But from it all I actually did develop a love for public speaking. In preparatory school I took speech and debate or forensics as it was called. I competed in debates and public speaking competitions from 4-H clubs, local civic clubs to college sponsored drama events and local community sponsored speaking events. In high school I ran for all the school leadership offices I could and I thrived on the campaign speech aspect of it; something that I focused on intently later in college, law school and beyond.
In college I signed up my freshman year as well as each suceeding year to be on the "special events" committee. This was code language for the concert committee as well as for the university speakers bureau. This extra-curricular activity put me behind the scenes with famous celebrity performers, famous politicians and other world renowned speakers, public figures and artists.
This was to become my first close up look at the lives of famous people and to work behind the scenes with the professional public speaking world. From this experience I knew that this was something I wanted to do, that I could be good at and that I knew I would love doing and could somehow form into a career or an aspect of my career.
My Perspective On Compassion
The ability to help others is the core of our humanism. Our need to actually exercise that ability and go out into the world and do something to help others is the core of our humanity. To enhance the quality of life for others at our own expense or sacrifice and to show compassion and ease the pain and suffering of another human being in any measure is the core of our humaneness.
The power of charity is exponential and when we do something to show another that they are thought of or cared about it is always deeply felt and never forgotten. Even the simplest act of kindness extended to another human being has hidden benefits that extend in far greater scope than we could ever be aware of in the actual moment of giving. Whether one gives their time, energy or money it is at all times strictly a voluntary undertaking and my belief is that this puts the compassion element in its proper perspective.
If we knew that someone dear to us was in need would we not help? But are we not all just unrecognized brothers?
The first time I was ever asked to participate in a fund raising effort on a serious scale was for my community's annual United Way campaign. I was a young attorney just starting out and one of the firm's partners was the Chairman of our local community drive. I was asked to help with the "Professional Division" and my specific task was to solicit donations from all of the professions in our town. I thought I had incurred a stroke of good luck and that my job would be rather simple and effortless. However, it was made clear to me that not only did the "Professional Division" usually perform below expectations, but that the "attorney segment" as a section of the professions group in particular usually faired dismally in the overall giving. Underpaid school teachers were giving more as a group than were the attorneys who were publicly perceived as the most capable practitioners of the art of donating.
My task was to turn this embarassing reputation around. I felt very confident in my ability to do so and besides I thought, " How hard can this really be?" I was bolstering my self-confidence with the recollection that even at the age of nine I had helped organize a highly successful neighborhood New Year's Eve door-to-door campaign for the March of Dimes. Despite learning the stark reality about my chosen profession's meager performance in prior campaigns, I remained optimistic. Overly so as I soon learned when I set out in the first wave of effort with the initial form letter sent out en masse . . . which might as well be french for "huge mistake."
What I already knew was that you don't get anything if you don't ask but what I also immediately learned was that you don't get anything if you don't ask correctly. So I soon discovered that not only is a personal letter better than a form letter, but a personal visit or meeting is better than a phone call or a cold call drop in visit. It takes time, it takes effort and it takes a personal approach.
The campaign ended up being a tremendous record setting success and one in which I learned many invaluable lessons. I approached the task much like any litigation challenge I was handling and set out to learn everything I could about the subject matter. I studied everything I could get my hands on about the charity, my potential donors, my prospects for volunteer assistance to enlist aid from and even about the history of charitable giving. What surprised me the most was the fascinating history of the United way organization itself. You could actually begin the story by saying, "a Priest, a Rabbi, two ministers and a woman from Denver walked into a meeting . . ." as that is exactly what happened in 1887 when the first united charitable effort to raise money for a combined collection of ten charities at once was organized. Then it was called the "Charity Organization Society" and was formally organized twenty-six years before the federal government even enacted the Revenue Act of 1913 giving legal existence and formal recognition to the idea of a 501 (c) organization. In later years it was better known by it's newer name of "Community Chest" popularized by the familiar board game "Monopoly."
From my volunteer experiences I have come to understand and appreciate that the volunteer support of time, talent and effort is just as vital to a charitable organization as monetary funds. If you are financially assisting a foundation or a trust then that is of course needed as well. But with other organizations beyond a trust or foundation, anything that they don't have to spend money on that could otherwise be done through volunteer service saves them that dollar for the things they do have to spend money for which are typically things that the beneficiaries of their cause need that will go to them directly.
Over the years I have tried to continue to be active in some capacity directly with the organizations I support. Toward that end, I have satisfied the service part of this overall undertaking by assisting most often as a member, hands-on volunteer, an officer, legal counsel or legal advisor, board member, committee chair or in direct fundraising and by financial contributions.
My interests in causes are very reflective of my personal interests in general and are fairly ecletic. I have supported registered charitable corporations, foundations, trusts, and assisted with fundraising events and charitable organizations which responsibly represent the various causes and initiatives I support or have supported in the past.
Specifically, the causes that I care most about categorically and specifically are:
- Animal Rights and Humane Treatment Causes
- Animal Welfare and Veterinary Services Issues
- Wildlife Conservation Broadly
- Land Based Animals, Sea life (including Coral Reefs, marine life and fresh water aquatic life Protection) and Winged Animals
- Wildlife Habitat Conservation and Protection Causes
- Including most importantly coral reefs and the various National and International Parks that protect them
- Zoos and Aquariums
Arts, Culture and the Humanities
- Libraries, Historical Societies and Trusts, Landmark Preservation and Architectural Restoration and Protection Causes
- Museums Broadly - Historical, Art and Commemorative.
- Including one of my favorite museums in the world: The Stainless Steel Museum in Kokomo, IN. (The Elwood Haynes Museum.)
- Performing Arts Broadly
- This includes a devout interest in stage, screen and television production history
- Public Broadcasting and Media Broadly
- Including all mechanical and technological aspects of the art
- Fundraising Organizations
- Particularly those devoted to historic preservation simultaneously with urban economic growth and opportunity
- Community Foundations
- Particularly those devoted to historic preservation simultaneously with urban economic growth and opportunity
- Housing and Neighborhood Development
- Universities, Graduate Schools, and Technological Institutes
- Private Elementary and Secondary Schools
- Private Liberal Arts Colleges
- Specialized Educational Programs and Services
- Including per se special education programs, adult literacy programs, vocational disability
- Environmental Protection and Conservation
- Botanical Gardens, Parks, and Nature Centers
- Diseases, Disorders, and Disciplines
- Patient and Family Support
- Treatment and Prevention Services
- Medical Research
Human and Civil Rights
- Advocacy and Education
- Human Services
- Children and Family Services
- Youth Development, Shelters, and Crisis Services
- Food Banks, Food Pantries, and Food Distribution
- Needs of the Homeless
- Humanitarian Relief & Aid
- Particularly the rendering of transitional assistance to returning veterans and active enlisted personnel of whatsoever kind or nature
- Particularly one of my own projects for the proper commemoration of fallen heroes with war memorials and the proper decoration and recognition of returning heroes
[*Simply to point out that the categories presented are listed alphabetically and not commensurate with the degree of my interest.]
OUR CHARITY PARTNER
I along with our team at RickBatson.com actively partner with a charity to promote their cause and to help raise awareness of their efforts and their needs. Currently, the Charity Partner that we have teamed up with is the Feeding America organization and its national network of member food bank operations.
Feeding America is able to invest 98 cents of every dollar donated directly into programs that help people across the country access the food they need to live an active, healthy life. The Feeding America network provides food to more than 46.5 million people facing hunger in the United States, including 12 million children and 7 million seniors. Feeding America secures nearly 4 billion pounds of food annually, which provides 3.3 billion meals directly to individuals and families in need of food.
See the full story here: