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All you can do is be the best lawyer you can be

I seem to recall litigating cases when I was a less seasoned attorney, and I took the losses much more to heart than I do now. You would think it would be the opposite, because now I am the first chair and the one that is responsible for strategy and execution.

However I felt every loss, however small, very deeply in the early years. Losing a motion would quite literally keep me up at night, staring at the ceiling, unable to sleep. It would take a long time to shake even the smallest loss. It was even worse when I had a long winning streak that was suddenly and unexpectedly broken!

I think the reason this has changed is because I have realized how difficult it is to predict success in the beginning of a case. Moreover, you have little control over whether you get the “winning” party or the “losing” party as your client. Yes, of course, you can screen out people that seem completely unreasonable; however, by and large when you take a new client you probably have a 50-50 chance of ending up with the party who will not prevail at trial.

Sometimes the facts just aren’t on your side. Sometimes they are, and you lose anyway.

A colleague once gave me great advice that has stuck with me and I have often repeated it to my associates.  He told me the best you can do is be the best lawyer you can be, do your job to the best of your ability and after that it is out of your hands. I think that is true.

You have no control over the facts, the law, and limited control over the judge’s interpretation of them, among other things. Sometimes the facts, however much you prepare, change or evolve up to the trial date. As much as you will prepare, research and toil over a case, it is not your life, these are not your decisions or your consequences. Sometimes your client has made missteps and hurt their own case. Again, that’s out of your hands.

Do the best within the bounds of your job and ethical duties. If you have done that, even if you lost your case you should be able to go to sleep soundly that night. The sooner you realize this the better off you’ll be.