What I Know Now That I Wish I Had Known Then
I’ve practiced, regularly, in the small claims courts of the mountains of Tennessee and North Carolina and in the supreme courts of numerous states and the United States. Here are some things that I know now.
Lawyers are like dogs. Some are pups and some are pit bulls, but all of them behave better when treated well.
I had an inkling, early on, that the clerk of court was always right, or at least that doing it the clerk’s way was going to be easier than doing it the way I thought was right. I nailed that one.
My lawsuits are not about me.
My work is better when I talk less and listen more.
As a baby lawyer I thought that my clients were noble and deserving and that my opponents were ignoble and greedy. As a geezer, I know that each side has a story, and that the counter to my narrative can be powerful.
Juries are incredibly good at discerning whose story better approaches truth. Well-paid propagandists would have you believe otherwise.
At least once in your career, and possibly a tiny bit more often, your client will stretch the truth.
“Ready for trial, your Honor,” are among the most powerful words a plaintiff’s counsel can utter. Meaningful settlement discussions are unlikely before defense counsel hears them.
Your credibility is precious. Once compromised, it might never be regained. Guard it.
Judges are living, breathing human beings, not decision machines. They are influenced by the things they have seen and felt and absorbed. They should be. The law is not a set of abstract rules. The law is a group of flawed humans struggling their mightiest to apply the experiences of those who have come before them to the problems they face today. Being part of that effort is a great honor. Struggle mightily.