Some Wisdom Shared
Like most judges, I receive a number of magazine subscriptions gratis that begin mysteriously and end in a similar inexplicable fashion. One of my favorites among these freebies is The Champion, the publication of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers.
Its president, Larry S. Pozner of Denver, titled his monthly column in the June 1999 issue, "Lessons Learned." While his column is addressed to the criminal defense bar, the lessons that Pozner passes on are applicable to the bankruptcy bar as well. Here are some of his nuggets of 24-carat wisdom that might be studied once a week.
- Lawyers who don't have to try the case are the first ones to bravely advise you, "I'd take it to trial."
- Judges are not debatable, only appealable.
- Saying "I strongly object" marks you as an amateur. Saying "that would be reversible error" marks you as a threatening amateur.
- Of your 10 greatest victories, seven will be deals. Nobody will hear about the deals, but they count just as much.
- Never follow a brilliant inspiration in the midst of trial.
- Your worst disasters will be caused not by bad facts, but by surprises. Ask Clinton's lawyers.
- If we were as dedicated to our kids as we are to our clients, both would be better off.
- Preparation is still the greatest technique for winning.
- Lawyers of high ethical standards never mention it.
- If you steal a great deal, shut up about it, or you will never steal another.
- Clients benefit from your reputation. It's not in their interest or yours to do anything questionable, even if they think it is.
- Your reputation for integrity will win you more motions than will case law.
- Be as quick to publicly praise honesty in your opponents as you are to scorn dishonesty.
- When the client is yelling at you, remember that you would be scared too if you were in her shoes.
- Talking to the press about your own case is, at best, a break-even deal. The coverage will burn you as often as it will benefit you.
- Coverage develops its own orbit and momentum, and you have about as much chance to change the coverage as you do to stop an asteroid.
- Be wary of lawyers with divided loyalties.
- When a defendant wants to fire its current lawyer to hire you, be reluctant to say yes. When the other lawyer is your friend, be adamant in saying no. I forgot this and it cost me a friend. It wasn't worth it. It never is.
- You will exercise your worst judgment when money is tight.
- There will be an opponent you truly hate. Don't let that hatred affect your tactics or your ethics.
- Be careful dividing responsibility with other lawyers in a team. You are now trusting them with your client, which means you are trusting them with your reputation.
- When a group of defense lawyers convenes to plan a joint strategy, one of them is about to get screwed. You have one week to figure who it is. If you can't figure it out after the first week—it's you.
- Lawyers who turn in solid results day after day are more admired than lawyers who turn in dazzling results every now and then.
Those of us who spend most of our time in the bankruptcy courts may think that we are different from our colleagues of the criminal defense bar, but we share a great deal in common in the practice of our noble profession. We have much to learn from one another.