Winning in Litigation Starts with Recognizing what Success Looks Like

I’ve learned over time that sometimes clients have a different version “winning” in litigation than their lawyer. Trial lawyers tend to be consumed with keeping score on issues that don’t matter much to clients. Legal disputes and conflict have a way of sucking up all the oxygen in someone’s life, and it’s not uncommon for those who endure bitter and drawn out litigation to feel unsatisfied when it’s over – even when they have “won.”

I was reminded of that by a thoughtful essay published by my client Ned Scherer reflecting on the conclusion of a drawn-out dispute he’d had with his longtime friend and business partner. The conflict churned through the courts for many, many years and ended recently with the two former friends-turned-adversaries each working to bury the hatchet.

He writes: 

You learn a lot as you get older. Perhaps the saying “youth is wasted on the young” is true. The most important thing I’ve learned is forgiveness. I sometimes fall short of my expectations but have found that holding on to negative thoughts is the ultimate albatross. 
I had a serious falling out with my lifelong best friend and business partner about nine years ago. To this day the loss of his friendship and that of his family is a constant reminder of how hubris can destroy the things we treasure most. I wish the Ned Scherer of 2011 had the wisdom and perspective of the Ned Scherer today. The animus we displayed towards each other could easily have been avoided. 
I am grateful we have reconciled, at least on a professional level. After a protracted “stalemate” he wrote the attached recommendation. It took courage on his part. When you identify so closely with your career and in an instant it is over, you begin to question everything. The loss for me was overwhelming. 
I share this in the hope others in a similar position don’t act as capriciously as I did. At the end of the day life is about family and friends. I lost sight of that. 
I don’t know what the future holds for our relationship but I guaranty you, litigation isn’t always the answer. #forgiveness #friendship

Indeed. And that’s why being a truly great trial lawyer is so difficult and rare. There’s a time and place for the civil justice system in resolving intractable disputes, but as trial lawyers it’s important for us to remember that our toolbox contains more than a hammer because not all problems look like nails, and we have to have the vision to see the whole range of these problems and be able to think creatively to solve them in a way that is truly a win from the client’s perspective. 

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