Friday, February 22, 2008

TRIAL, or, Recipe for a Meltdown of Monumental Proportions

Technically speaking, I am a civil litigator. A litigator (not to be confused with "alligator" har-har, silly lawyer joke) is the type of lawyer who takes issues to trial.

But, I'm going to let you in on a little secret: Despite what the folks in TV Land want you to believe, trials don't happen all that often.

I'm not speaking for criminal attorneys or prosecutors, who DO seem to have trials with regularity (although not so often as they do on Law & Order as near as I can tell.) But, when I run into friends or acquaintances who are criminal defense attorneys, they can utter the words, "I have a trial next week" in the same tone of voice that they might say, "I have a doctor's appointment next week and I'm not really looking forward to it."

However, when civil litigators have a trial, well, let's just say that, in my experience, they are running their hands through their hair, talking to themselves and possibly chain-smoking.

I have A LOT of hearings. I have hearings in housing or family court several times a week. A hearing is much less formal than a trial. There is no jury, there are no trial briefs, no witness lists, just usually one person testifies to something (for example: "I own this house and I rented it to this guy and he stopped paying me two months ago" and the other side testifies, "It's true I stopped paying him, but, I lost my job") and then usually we get a decision right on the spot, and that's the basic day-to-day legal work I do.

And in much of the other work that I do, I win on motions for default 85% of the time (this is where the other side doesn't even respond to the Complaint I filed with the court, so, I file a motion saying, essentially, "Hey! I showed up at the basketball court and I brought my ball and I was ready to play, and they STOOD ME UP. So, please rule in my favor so I can take my ball and go home."), and, for the last four years I have won on summary judgment the other 15% of the time. (This is where the other side answers, and then I file a motion in response to their answer that says, "Hello! Judge! There are no real legal issues here! Please rule in my favor!) (Um, obviously, I am over-simplifying this process).


But but but, I am involved in a stupid case on the other side of the state, and I have LOST on summary judgment and my client did something to shoot itself in the foot (my client being an entity and not a person), and it looks like it is going to TRIAL (like, TRIAL, an actual trial, with all the trappings entailed in that) in TWENTY DAYS, and as I realized the implications of that yesterday, I had to shut my office door and put my head between my knees for several minutes and then I went into the Ladies' Room and contemplated vomiting for a good long while after that.

And then I went into the office of one of our partners and shut HIS door and had a minor (er, major) panic attack (which would have been a poor career move on my part except that this particular partner also happens to be my uncle, so, it was okay) , and he had some ideas which he is floating to the client right now, which may help avoid TRIAL! and I've got to say that I hope he makes this work, because, HOLY CANOLI I do not want to have to have a TRIAL. ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE STATE.

Just arranging daycare for me to be on the other side of the state for even two days is a logistical nightmare. And this just isn't something I do. EVER.

I wasn't able to sleep last night and I am all anxiety-riddled.

Here is another dirty little secret: I hate conflict.

You are laughing hysterically and mumbling, man, she is in the WRONG business. A lawyer who hates conflict? That's insane!

And you may be right. I may be crazy. (But, I just may be the lunatic you're looking for). (Sorry, musical interlude to lighten the mood.)

I hate conflict, and I am pretty good at avoiding it, and when I have to face it head on (usually in divorce court) - I face it head on and then I go back and close my office door and hyperventilate. (It's not a great coping system, but, there you go...)

Hoping the more experienced attorney can work some magic and make this trial go POOF! But, not holding my breath...




Blogger mam said...

I am VERY proud of my trial record...100% undefeated!

Wow, that's impressive, you exclaim! How many trials did I win, you ask? Jeez, you would ask that, you picky analytic type. (1) trial, and I quit private practice a few months after that (not entirely to preserve my unbeaten record, but that's a nice perk).

I too hate conflict. I know what you're feeling, and I empathize.

Friday, February 22, 2008 1:05:00 PM  
Blogger niobe said...

In my (not all that vast) experience, civil cases, even civil cases that are 20 days away from trial, tend overwhelmingly to end up settling. But usually not until the eve of trial, so you have to do all the preparation anyway. Hoping yours goes away much sooner.

Friday, February 22, 2008 3:26:00 PM  
Blogger Law Student Hot Mama said...

I went through that same experience once. I actually prepped for the trial, went to it, and then it settled after we made our case. It was so painful.

I feel your pain. Litigation sucks.

Friday, February 22, 2008 7:09:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Awww, that just sounds sucky. I hope you can avoid the trial. Would a good case of the flu get you out of it?

Friday, February 22, 2008 7:51:00 PM  
Anonymous Christina said...

Okay, I am surprised and weirdly pleased at the idea of a lawyer who doesn't like trials! I think you are my kind of lawyer. :-)

Saturday, February 23, 2008 7:12:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Uck, I just put my head down between my knees for you - having a sympathy panic attack. Thank you for your comment on my blog; I really appreciate your perspective. I guess it's time for me to de-lurk here, huh? I've been reading for a long time! :) Best of luck with the case.

Saturday, February 23, 2008 8:35:00 PM  
Blogger Nicole - Raising Animals said...

You will do AWESOME! You're a fantastical lawyer.

Monday, February 25, 2008 3:21:00 PM  

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