Losing your First Trial, Ouch! Good Bosses to the Rescue!
I was lucky to be able to try my first case very early in my career – in my 3rd year of practice, now almost 35 years ago! It was a business case, breach of contract, I think, a bench trial in North County Superior Court. Up against two older experienced attorneys.
I had worked hard, was ready to go, fully prepped, couldn’t lose! When I Ieft the office early that morning to go to court, two of my bosses, Dick Lynn and Jim Mehalick, both fine litigators, were in the small reception area of our small firm to see me off. Dick, with a big smile on his face, said – I will never forget this – “if you lose, don’t come back!” Jim smiled. Funny, I thought, kinda? They wished me good luck. Off I went.
I represented the plaintiff. Trial started, I gave opening, put up my witnesses, got my evidence in, closed my case, and LOST! Motions for judgment granted to both defendants.
Devastated. Obviously picked the wrong career. What will the client do – sue me? What will my bosses do? Maybe they weren’t kidding, will they let me back in? Jill and I have a baby on the way, just bought a house, how will I pay the bills? Back to marine biology? A young lawyer unrealistically projecting out years about how a career crunching loss would ruin his entire career and life! In retrospect, silly, but, hey, I LOST my first trial, a case I knew I couldn’t lose.
I went to work the next day to face my bosses. Needless to say, they let me back in the office! We went over the trial, the result, and our remedies. They were encouraging, supportive, thoughtful. They explained, as any trial lawyer would, you can’t win them all, you will lose cases you thought you would win and win some sure losers. Great support, perfect advice – just what I needed, righted my ship, reestablished my gravity. Taught me some lessons. Put me back to work. Ending of the story – we appealed, won, and settled the case.
Moral of the story – its good to have supportive bosses/colleagues/mentors and perseverance pays!