Lady Justice: Breaking the Mould vs Sunk Costs

Life is about the stories we tell ourselves. The stories can be about who we are as a human, a particular community, and our society as a whole. A trial is a search for the truth. We in the legal profession often somewhat facetiously note there are always at least three versions of the truth – that of the plaintiff; that of the defendant; and, that as found by the trial judge.

I always liked listening to and telling stories. As a trial lawyer, these are the stories of my clients. I tell their truth as best as I can, but I was not there, I am their advocate. I recall in school when we switched from writing stories to writing essays. As a storyteller, my educators and classmates would be captivated by my tales (I like to imagine). One of my most memorable stories back in my Montreal high school days was about my favourite food, pizza. 100%.

Then came essays, no longer my stories, but dissecting others’ stories according to symbolism and other parameters that took me awhile to figure out. No longer intuiting, but analyzing. Even in University, I would miss the importance of the book starting with “the full moon rising” or some such symbolism assigned a meaning versus a vision of a beautiful evening.

A company is a legal story we tell ourselves, there is no tangible entity. As a lawyer, I have a professional corporation. I personally have not changed as a result, but my accountants make sure we keep that entity straight for accounting and tax purposes.

My latest legal entity I created (established) with my two adult daughters, is our Breaking the Mould Foundation. It has recently been incorporated as a not-for-profit society and we are seeking charitable status. Our office is located in the new Centre for Social Impact across from City Hall. We sponsor our Social Impact Hub at the Market at Red Deer at the new Red Deer Polytechnic site. I have been an empty nester since February but the youngest is back from her University term abroad in Amsterdam and the oldest is back from law school/work in Boston/New York. They are born and raised Red Deerians and a testament to this city being a great place to raise wonderful humans.

Breaking the Mould Foundation is about taking our community work and formalizing that story to have greater impact. Mold (American spelling) and mould (British spelling) mean the same thing. A mo(u)ld can be a frame for shaping something; we can shape things/people in a mould; or, mould can be any of the various fungi that commonly grow on organic matter. We think of all these versions. Our “u” in mould is a represented by a phoenix shattering through a glass ceiling.

Sunk costs is an economic term to refer to an investment already incurred that cannot be recovered. The sunk cost fallacy refers to being reluctant to abandon a course of action because of what has already been invested, even when abandonment would be favourable. In brief, throwing good money after bad. Not the best choice. Sometimes it is better to break the mould and choose to support a new investment. This can apply to a human, a community or all of society. It is not necessary to throw out the baby with the bath water, that is where wisdom (or maybe trial and error) comes in.

Donna Purcell, K.C., (aka Lady Justice) is a Central Alberta lawyer and Chief Innovation Officer with Donna Purcell QC Law. If you have legal questions, contact

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