It was every young associate’s worst nightmare. I was covering a hearing for another attorney in my office. The hearing was scheduled for the Friday of what had been an intense and busy week. However, I raced off to court, confident that I had mastered the issues, understood the facts and was well-versed in the relevant case law.
I got into the courtroom and introduced myself to opposing counsel. During our brief conversation before the judge came out on the bench, counsel informed me that the documents we attached to our opposition were irrelevant to issues of the hearing.
As I began processing what counsel was saying, I realized he was right. My head started spinning; it would only be a matter of minutes before the judge called our case. Every argument that I was prepared to make referenced the documents. In that moment, my options were to fold, to stand before the court with no argument or to look for the Hail Mary and give my case a fighting chance.
I had to think fast. I quickly excused myself from the courtroom and called my client. I was able to get enough information from my client to make a proffer as to certain facts and the existence of documents that went to the issues of the hearing.
As counsel made his oral argument, I clung to every word, hoping that additional arguments would materialize from his words. I was ultimately able to use counsel’s arguments, as well as my proffer, to make a pretty strong pitch for a continuance, which was granted.
As young lawyers, we often lack the confidence to believe we can handle this nightmare scenario. We spend sleepless nights playing out every possible scenario in court, preparing for the worst. I realized through this experience that, prepare and over-prepare as I may, there will inevitably be oversights.
I also realized that I am capable of thinking on my feet, reacting quickly and coming out with a good result for my client, even under seemingly hopeless circumstances.