Last night, some Tweets by @tcita caught my eye:
Protip: don’t do anything that might upset those who hold the keys to seeing your client. And also control every moment of his day.
.@jrushie It never ceases to amaze me how little lawyers think about their interactions with guards.
It seems like common sense when you say it like that. How you interact with the guards might not be a legal paper or proceeding, but how you treat them could affect your client’s interests. So treating the guards right is important.
Her Tweets took me back to an exchange I had with Chris Bradley a few weeks ago. Chris wrote a piece about how he just showed up to a deposition, having no idea what he was doing, but sometimes showing up is enough. I started to take him to town on it, but I ended up writing a sort of incomplete, half-assed blog post about how to defend depositions. Alex Craigie was kind enough to remind me that my summary was inadequate with some tips of his own. Scott Greenfield mentioned the discussion today on his blog.
The more I think about it… it was never about how to take and defend depositions. And my response to Chris missed the boat. It ended up being another inadequate pieces about depositions.
This is the piece I should have written: it all matters. That is why you don’t just show up.
How you talk to the bailiff. What you do at the settlement conference. How you treat the court staff. The questions you ask at the depositions or don’t ask.
It all matters. All of it. Every single interaction.
Sometimes lawyers look at the profession as “task based.” Show up to a conference. File a motion. Draft a complaint. Attend a conference. Bradley looked at this deposition as a task – show up, get through it, hope nothing bad happens. That is how we were trained, in some sense. Do the assignment, turn it it, and wait for the teacher to give you the next assignment.
What Bradley didn’t do was analyze the issue as a whole. A deposition is just one minor event in a series of events. The deposition is a small battle. But the litigation itself is a war, which is a series of small battles that ultimately lead up to a result for your client. And as the lawyer, you’re the general. All the small battles affect the war one way or another, so each one has to be treated as very important, and with an understanding and strategy of the war as a whole.
For example, last year Eric Turkewitz wrote about a per diem associate hired to cover a routine status conference. The per diem associate was busy, too, and dropped the conference on another attorney. The second attorney signed a stipulation agreeing to produce certain things in discovery that no one had agreed to. The court said the stipulation was binding. Oops.
@tcita recognized this. Even though the guards aren’t going to be at trial, how she interacts with them is going to influence her client’s life. So it’s important. Chris, on the other hand, was content to show up to the battle unequipped. Not knowing what, if anything, his contribution would have on the war – his client the casualty.
It’s not hard to view tasks like they are homework assignments. However, I am finding that it is hard to be a good lawyer – to understand that each and every interaction, every letter you write, every conference you attend, and every single thing you do affects the war as a whole. Every interaction, every telephone call, every email, and every conference. Meaning all of your moves, words, and actions have to be done with purpose and precision. Every single thing. Before you take any action, you have to ask yourself this: “How does it affect my client?”
That is why you can never “just show up”, because it all matters to your client.