25 Lessons in 25 Years – Part I



 2017 marks my 25th anniversary as a lawyer.  I have decided to do a series of posts dedicated to certain lessons I have learned and how I have grown as a lawyer during those 25 years. Some of these lessons are universal across life in many different occupations; other are more specific to the practice of law; and some are even more specific to the practice of law in Indianapolis/Central Indiana. Like everything else in life, some of these will be more applicable to you than others. So, without further delay, and in no particular order except for number 1, here is part 1 of the 25 Lessons in 25 Years.

  1. Practicing Law is Stressful.  Lawyers often are hired by clients who have a problem and want the lawyer to fix it.  Of course, the lawyer had nothing to do with creating the problem, but now the client wants it fixed by the lawyer.  For type “A” perfectionists, which many lawyers are, this creates stress because many of these problems never will be fixed. I personally tend to internalize these problems and make them my own, and while experience has taught me that I cannot do that, that is something I always struggle with because I want to make everything right for the client.
  1. There is no Such Thing as Perfect Case.  I have won cases that I should have lost, and lost cases I should have won.  This is why cases settle.  When you go to court, anything can happen, and often does.
  1. The Strategy That Almost Never Works.  “Just sue them, and they will come running to us begging to settle.”  The next time this works for me will be the first.
  1. Principle is the Most Expensive Thing in the World.  “Chris, this is not about the money; it is about the principle of the thing . . . .”  In my experience, “principle” usually lasts about 2-3 billing cycles, and after receiving a few bills, and realizing that fighting for principle is likely to take several years, suddenly it is not about the principle of the thing.
  1. It is a Round World.  You are likely to need a favor from another lawyer someday.  There are several lawyers to whom I likely will forever be indebted because of favors they did for me early in my career when by all rights they could have really stuck it to me.  I always remember this when dealing with not only them, but others when determining what is the right thing to do.  Even if a line in the sand needs to be drawn and you are required to “be tough” on behalf of your client, this needs to be done in a professional, courteous manner and one in which you maintain the respect of the other lawyer, your client and, perhaps, the other client as well because, someday you may need something from one of those people.

            Stay tuned for lessons #20-16 coming soon.