I knew it would be a challenge to post regularly on this blog as a solo practitioner, and the last few months have proven that. While no posts have generated, countless ideas have run through my mind and I have decided today is the time to spit a few out. This is largely because I think many U.S. citizens and most all lawyers would be interested in South Carolina’ latest legal news. As shown in the Order re House Speaker Bobby Harrell – PDF – OCR (we try to add value here) , the South Carolina Circuit Court (a/k/a Common Pleas) told the S.C. Attorney General to “Move Over Rover” and let the House Ethics Committee take over! So the question now becomes what will happen to the “fire” that is the investigation and who will get to “stand next to it.” If the last sentence made no sense to you, please go back and see / listen to the Move Over Rover link.
Okay, so that was item 4 above and the titled topics to this post are out of order. We find to maintain the reader’s attention, it is good to keep them guessing a little bit. Back to the first topic. As my friend and colleague Rob Rikard points out on his Twitter handle @rgrikard he is a “lawyer, father, problem solver.” Rob and I each know that I generally use more words than he does to describe what we lawyers do, and my Twitter handle @WesFewSC reflects that. In fact, I have “copied” his mantra using more words than he required and also claimed allegiance to my favorite sports teams: “The” Clemson Tigers and “The” Atlanta Braves. Rob prefers to take on USC as well as Clemson fans as clients, Atlanta Braves, Nationals, Phillies, Marlins, Mets and the like.
Lawyers / Attorneys are problem solvers when we are at our best and highest functionality. Clients and potential clients come to us with passionate and sometimes lengthy descriptions of how they have been wronged, whether by being the subject of a suit or as a Plaintiff. Our job is to define their problem, as specifically as possible – e.g., from point A to point B, and advise if we can solve it (get to B) through the legal system usually involving an analysis of their facts and the threat / possibility of filing a lawsuit and likely years later, getting a judgment in their favor, otherwise appeals may follow. By way of example, I was fortunate to get a favorable decision as Respondent (e.g., cert. denied) last week on a summary judgment order that was entered by the trial court in 2010 for a case that was filed in 2007 based upon facts that occurred in 2004-2005, then affirmed by the S.C. Court of Appeals. The legal process can take years to “resolve” / “solve” a client’s problems. So we look for ways to solve problems as quickly and as efficiently as possible. If we are on a contingency or a blended type fee, this result is also desirable for the lawyers involved. The trick is defining / identifying the problem in a way that it can be solved, and getting the fee arrangement with the client set up in a way that is best for the client and the lawyer, who may be working together for several years or more.
Once we do that, we are at the point of deciding how to use limited resources to best represent our clients and get them to point B. It is the author’s most humble opinion that technology and keeping up with same is our best weapon on this “efficiency” front. Colleague Dave Maxfield (@ConsumerLawSC) is light years ahead of most when it comes to use of technology, and I am no exception. So, I follow what he does and copy what works for me and my clients. Dave does not just use available technology, he works with software developers to produce the functionality that he wants / needs. For example, as shown by Ntrepid’s Timestream and the iPad trial presentation app, Final Argument. Using these programs, much like Adobe PDF Acrobat Pro, MS Excel and MS Word takes time and development of skills.
Likewise, solving client’s complex problems as quickly and efficiently as possible require us to think differently, to challenge our prior thinking on certain subjects, including facts and law, non-jury or jury, arbitration, mediation, and when is the best time to do one of these? A purveyor of wisdom that I read recently stated we must be willing to challenge every notion every day. This is so true for us as lawyers as we take cases on facts we believe to be true at the time, but many times later learn (along with the clients on both sides) that the facts are likely to be different. The thought process of challenging our every thought every day is refreshing and reminds me of my all time favorite poem by Rudyard Kipling, IF. I have mentioned before that my father used to quote Kipling’s IF quite often regarding filling the unforgiving minute with 60 seconds of distance run, and I would then think, “I am sure that will be meaningful to me one day, but right now, the Braves are on.” Looking back and reading this poem regularly now, it sets forth all that we do in life and as lawyers in practice, we “meet with triumph and disaster,” we sometimes “risk it [all] on one turn of pitch and toss,” we we start over, we deal with Kings and paupers, we remain humble, and we do it all with “every nerve and sinew” to provide our clients with the best service we can give, as their fight is our own.
One such notion to be challenged every day is with respect to technology. For example, is it enough to be able to do word processing and billing software? No, it is not. Just like reading cases, taking depositions, and analyzing claims are skills, so much more of what we do today involves the use of technology and the need to use technology as efficiently as possible to review, categorize, tag, organize and save and share information. In fact, as I tell myself daily, and my eagerly listening four children: everything is a skill, you must work at it, practice it, develop it, polish it off, re-evaluate it, get better at it, think differently about how you can do these things, lead, challenge yourself to do more, better, and do it again tomorrow with a smile on your face. Along with the use of software, thinking is a skill that can be practiced and made better. We must challenge ourselves to think differently, at 25,000 feet so to speak at times, 10,000 feet a little bit later, and then know when to delve into an issue and get “down in the weeds.” If we live in the weeds, we will need a 96 hour day to get done all that needs to be done. So, I challenge you to challenge yourself to analyze your cases or your problems “differently,” and see how the different approach can make you better, more skilled, more optimistic, more hopeful, more faithful, and enjoy your life’s obstacles and challenges that will never go away and will always keep you in the game.
That is enough for now. I hope you will enjoy following the above-referenced power struggle, and appreciate the challenges faced by all who are involved in deciding those issues. In the meantime, join me in celebrating my firm’s one year anniversary that slipped by in the dark of night on May 3, 2014. I am extremely grateful to everyone who has helped me, challenged me, battled with me, and / or encouraged me to this point in my career, including past employers, mentors, mentees, opposing counsel, clients and others that I have been blessed to encounter thus far on my journey.
Music: VERY LIGHT
Legal Stuff: ALSO LIGHT
Legal Links: STILL FURTHER LIGHT
Technical Stuff: LIGHT MEDIUM
Pontificating: HEAVY 😉