Cleaning House

It’s the time of year I don’t really like. I mean, not the holidays, but the time of year where I do my annual cleaning of my office and files. I find this time of year that the courts have pretty much closed down and it is time to clean the office and destroy old files that have been around for many years taking up space in my storage room. I find this is one of the jobs I like the least.

It seems that old files are nothing more than memories for me. Each memory means I’m getting older. I look at each closed file and remember the client or case or Judge or opposing counsel. Something about it triggers a memory of a time past. Maybe a victory, maybe a bitter defeat, maybe a lifelong friend, maybe a real estate deal or whatever memory I associate with each file. I try and envision what the client is doing now, many years later and hope their lives are better now than before. I try and remember the good that happened in each case. Sometimes though, I find the bad as a memory. Maybe I lost the case because I just didn’t try hard enough or maybe I lost because I wasn’t prepared enough, but maybe I lost because I just didn’t care enough. Whatever the reason, there are no do-overs. These cases were never appealed. I simply let my client down.

As I get older and older though, the losses come fewer and farther in between. This year I am cleaning out files and I haven’t yet come across any one I’ve lost. What I mean is jury trials or bench trials. I  believe that you never win if your client’s story isn’t told. I believe that there is a hole in the client’s heart when they don’t tell their story. I believe that your client should tell his or her story always.

It’s amazing to me that most clients just want someone to listen to them. They want reassurances, they want closure, they want justice. How often do we just settle a case without hearing from our clients for whatever reason? I mean, if they offer policy limits early on, what’s the point of trying the case? What’s the point of delaying the only justice the client will ever get? What if the DA dismisses the case without trial? Why would you press for trial? Why would you go to trial when the result is the best that can happen? Well, you really shouldn’t.

I prepare cases with the clients for trial. I am always afraid when I am told I’ll have to go to trial, because I might lose. I don’t like that scary, empty feeling. So I prepare with the client, learning their story, getting ready for trial. I must admit that I over prepare, until it is second nature for me. What happens is usually settlement at limits or dismissal of the case. It seems that the more I prepare the less trials I get. It’s amazing, but every time I’m ready, something happens and the opponent seems to settle. How much longer can this magic go on? I don’t know, but I do know this, the more I prepare, the more the client’s story is told. That’s the justice some clients want. They want to be heard. I’ll admit that sometimes I’m the only one who gets to hear their story, but never the less, their story is told at least to someone.

As I meander through these closed files, I am filled with sadness as the time comes to say goodbye to each client’s story. I am overcome with emotions about each experience and memory. I am always reminded that my mission is to help those who have no voice against big business or government and I haven’t always done my best. Maybe this is a new year’s resolution. Hope your lawyer listens to your story and it doesn’t become a painful memory. I’m back to house cleaning.  You all have a nice day.


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