As lawyers, we are frequently called upon to determine the precise meaning of words, whether we are interpreting contracts or applying laws and regulations. I recently came across an article explaining the mechanics of the Cherokee language. The Cherokee language is a polysynthetic language, which means that many small semantic units are joined together to form individual words, which are often of great length. This feature of the language creates some interesting definitions when the smaller units of the word (known as morphemes) are taken as the literal meaning of the longer composite word.
As a lawyer, I was particularly interested in the Cherokee word for “attorney,” which is “ditiyohihi.” The literal translation of “ditiyohihi” is “he argues repeatedly and on purpose with a purpose.” Unlike many of the more derogatory slang references to lawyers, the Cherokee word for attorneys captures the true essence of what a lawyer should do for his client. The lawyer argues repeatedly on his client’s behalf — argues with the opposing counsel, with the judge, or with insurance adjusters. A good lawyer is always advocating for his client.
But just as importantly, the lawyer must argue “on purpose with a purpose.” A good lawyer has a plan or a strategy behind his arguments. Argument for argument’s sake can often be counterproductive, and nearly always results in excessive legal fees. But if the lawyer knows why the argument is important, the lawyer is truly advancing his client’s best interests.
At Powers Taylor LLP, we all strive to be an effective “ditiyohihi,” serving as a tireless advocate for our clients, but never losing sight of the ultimate goal of resolving our client’s disputes.
Footnote: Mark Taylor is a registered member of the Cherokee Nation.