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Not gonna Grinch it up this Year

Gentle Reader:

It has been pointed out (many times, in fact) that I don’t look forward to the holidays. I don’t hate the holidays, and it isn’t even that I don’t enjoy them, necessarily. Holidays, like vacations, mean not going to my office. Not going to my office means that the mail and the projects pile up, unattended. After the holidays, they have multiplied. Re-entry is typically, in my estimation, more difficult than the holidays were joyful.

The real culprit of my humbuggery is spare time, not project sprawl. Nonetheless, I have been proactive in an all-out peremptory attack on project sprawl. Nothing I can do about the spare-time thingie.

On a recent vacation, my wife pointed out that I was pacing the floor and the beach, unsettled, on the final couple of days. Holidays are traditionally worse. I wrap gifts like a nearsighted, one-armed chimp. Holidays are vacations in which my lousy gift-wrapping skills are displayed.

The holiday season ends the year, but the season itself is wrapped in stress — getting the perfect gifts, throwing the perfect party, being the perfect party guest and not eating too much. The end of the holidays is as much a sigh of relief as a joy to me. I’m going in a different direction this year in an attempt to avoid being the Grinch. I have hired a professional to wrap gifts and truly resolve to be joyful — at least, relatively so.

The week between Christmas and New Year’s Day has been officially off-limits to scheduling in my office this year. One would think this does not need to be an official policy, but one would be wrong. The rest of the legal community takes off or at least lays low during that week. They close the calendar on the year before the year is done. My well-intentioned team, trying to schedule depositions and hearings to keep our cases moving forward, notices the abundance of open calendar days between the end of December and the first of the year, and they try to fill those days with appointments. It should seem obvious that these days are open for a reason. This year it is official office policy.

One way to avoid pacing is to stay busy. After months of grousing about the evolution of trial lawyer to litigation specialist, I once again am going to trial. It has been a long, trial-free year for me. In fact, this is the third time this case has been in the on-deck circle for trial. Getting a case ready several times takes almost as much energy as trying it over and over, without the crescendo at the end.

In my career, I have retried only a couple of cases. The challenge in retrying a case is finding a spark after each side knows the other’s plan and there are no surprises. Having prepared this case three times now leaves me with a similar dilemma. I don’t really know what my opponent is going to do, but I have thought through all of the issues I expect often enough that I think I do.

This is a new feeling for me. They say the chess greats see the board several moves in advance. Great trial lawyers do the same. I am gifted to see what is going to happen right after it occurs. Still, three looks at the same case for trial is almost like trying it before, so I almost think I know what is going to happen in advance.

Try enough cases, and little complexities become routine. My pretrial habits are almost set in stone — light breakfast, Eye of the Tiger, last-minute panic for some lightning-bolt “Eureka” moment, which invariably turns out to be a nothing. I know when the stairs are a better option than the elevator, and which bailiffs mean it when they say they will use the Taser first thing on Monday morning.

My client got hurt on the opposite side of the state, and her case is set in a courthouse where I have tried only one case in my career. Most trials in my career required a morning drive to the courthouse. Knowing the best places to park is a perk of home games. This trial requires a hotel stay, and the courthouse is in walking distance.

I am excited to be playing an away game this week. Being in a different courthouse strips away the familiarity that can make one complacent. It also makes me ask for directions even more often than I usually do. Walking to court is exciting to me, for reasons I can’t figure out. Maybe that is the spark for this trial.

I like trials, and having one this close to the holidays is new and different. So is not humbugging up the season. The second rule of knowing a trial lawyer is that you don’t ask how things went. If I am successful on either front, I’ll let you know.

1201farris1:  Attorney Spencer Farris.  KAREN ELSHOUT/photo

©2018 under analysis llc. under analysis is a nationally syndicated column. Spencer Farris is the founding partner of The S.E. Farris Law Firm in St Louis, Missouri. Happy holidays to you and yours, and he means it. Comments or criticisms about this column may be sent c/o this newspaper or directly to Under Analysis via email at farris@farrislaw.net.

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