POST #10, MAY 14, 2016: I ALSO REMEMBERED A LESSON YESTERDAY
After the end of my day yesterday (see Post #9), I had occasion to put into practice what I wrote about in the last post: the collegiality attorneys should show to each other.
For years, three generations of my family have been doing battle against the attorneys of the firm now known as Milligan and Coleman. In future posts, I hope to share stories about the partners, some of whom, unfortunately, are no longer with us, as well as some photographs. Some of the stories I think you’ll find hilarious, including the one about the doctor who “lost his anus.”
As our civil litigation work is mostly plaintiffs’ work, we have many opportunities to do battle with the folks at Milligan and Coleman, which is the insurance defense firm in this county, and one of the most preeminent firms of its type in this region, if not in the whole state.
Anyway, at the end of the day, I had a chance to visit with two of the partners in the firm. Tom Garland is the son of a former state senator, business owner and bank chairman who was a great influence on my life growing up. His practice is specialized in defense of governmental entities, particularly in the civil rights division. I had a chance to seek his advice on a matter, a civil rights case in Federal Court in Knoxville, that I am handling and in which he is not involved. His advice, as always, was appreciated and will help me prosecute my case for my client.
Jeff Ward is just a smart, all-around good attorney. I still can’t believe he is an attorney: his oldest brother David, who is now a physician in Asheville, North Carolina was and is a great friend of my younger brother, and little Jeff used to run around behind him. I saw “little Jeff” yesterday with grey in his hair, and can’t believe how old I’ve become!
Jeff and I have been handling a matter against each other for over a year now, which has reached the point where we have filed a lawsuit. It is going to be one of those cases where the clients are at opposite poles and, unless Jeff can pull off one of his patented motions to dismiss or summary judgment motions (more on those in the next post), we will go to trial before a jury of 12, and let the best man win.
But despite that, we were joking around yesterday about the fantastic things we were going to tell the jury and the judge and how we were going to present our case. That’s because the lawsuit, as alluded to in the immediately preceding post, is not a personality clash, but a case to be tried fairly, competently, honestly and objectively.
Thus, I remembered the lesson I forgot earlier in the day: you absolutely cannot take your client’s case to heart, for if you do, you lose your ability to perform well for your client. And, if I had not built my relationships with Tom, Jeff and the rest of the firm, I would not have been able to seek Tom’s advice yesterday, nor would I be able to pick Jeff’s brain, nor would–and this is important–the firm be likely to want to settle cases with me.
My Granddaddy, the first of our three generations of attorneys, had a very wise saying, “Never curse at or talk badly about another attorney, for that attorney may be your judge one day.”
That is a very important point to remember.