“This isn’t flying, this is falling with style!” – Buzz Lightyear
I recently traveled to Denver to represent a client. It was not a case I had started, it was a case that I inherited from a biglaw firm. My client insisted, and we were as supportive and helpful as we could be – until the biglaw firm gave away the best argument for a bag of magic beans. BigLaw’s solution to the problem was to resign from representation.
I knew I’d been handed a pair of aces and eights.
The Plaintiff was the former officer of my client and had a contractual dispute with its current management.
I knew we had no chance at winning because of the BigLaw’s actions. Lots of my clients have made mistakes, and having experience in these situations, I know I need to take the hand I’m dealt.
BigLaw is concerned with wins and losses and money, not necessarily acting in the best interests in their clients. In our case, we did care about our client and we knew we’d get hurt.
Self-delusion gets you nowhere in law nor in life.
My firm always prepares as if it it’s readying itself for war. Two months of soft preparation and two weeks of hard preparation took us to Nevada, Alabama, and ultimately, Denver for a bench trial. But all that prepwork didn’t stop me from telling the client, “You will lose and will lose filthy. Not badly or poorly, but filthy. If I get sanctioned, there are signed checks in a bag, use them to get me out.”
I sincerely doubt you’d ever hear a BigLaw member say that.
Part of the strategy involved the judge, who was very good and fair. He wasn’t particularly happy with me or our client — I’d even go so far as to say he didn’t like us — but he respected what we were doing. I came close to getting sanctioned by the judge but I was also able to get him to crack a smile, which can be a useful tactic.
We didn’t stretch the case.
We had a lousy position and talked our way around it.
At one point I was talking too fast for the stenographer and the judge called me on it and said, “The reporter’s not used to it, but I am. I’ve been married to one of you [New Yorkers] for 44 years.”
“That’s quite a sentence, your Honor.”
It got the levity it needed and we were able to proceed.
Opposing counsel was a gentleman and we actually went to dinner afterward. That’s a new relationship. Who knows when we’ll next be summoned to Colorado?
We’re not looking for doomed cases, but when a longstanding, valued client has major legal issues, we’re willing to draw cards with them. In this case, it was the dreaded two pair. We played it to the best of our ability and are awaiting the decision.
Brinen & Associates calls that “falling with style,” and we’re honest with ourselves and clients when it’s the likely outcome.