When discussing leadership, General George C. Patton said the following as a reminder about accomplishment and ego:
“For over a thousand years, Roman conquerors returning from the wars, enjoyed the honor of triumph…. a tumultuous parade. In the procession came trumpeters, musicians and strange animals from conquered territories; together with carts laden with treasure and captured armaments.
The conqueror rode in a triumphant chariot, the dazed prisoners walking in chains before him. Sometimes, his children, robed in white, stood with him in the chariot or rode the trace horses. A slave stood behind the conqueror, holding a golden crown and whispering in his ear a warning: that all glory is fleeting”.
Last year, I was involved in 12 cases that went before a jury for trial. Some involved significant medical bills with permanent injury; and other cases were considered soft tissue, connective tissue injuries that resolved with therapy, and without permanent injury.
Cases go to trial for different reasons including a difference in each side assessing case value; a question of prior injury or a battle over who is at fault for the crash. If lawyers do post results about their trials, the State Bar requires that such advertisements or discussions also include disclaimers that remind people that each case is different and that prior results are not a guarantee of a future recovery.
Each of those jury trials were an example of that statement. They all had special circumstances which were partially responsible for why a jury had to decide on the value or facts.
One trial was especially satisfying because one of the defense lawyers had put in a letter that, the amount that we were seeking was unrealistic. He went on to say that there was not much of a chance that the verdict would be in excess of 100K.
Later, when the case was tried, the jury returned a 7 figure verdict. I recognized that the client was a special person, who had suffered from a significant injury. However, I have to also admit that I was feeling pretty good about me.
The very next trial, my client and I did not accept a 50K offer . The defense lawyer basically told me that I had to be out of my mind to turn that offer down. The jury returned a verdict of about 28K. I remember walking to the parking lot and not feeling so good about me, on that one.
Patton’s words are good reminders for any lawyer who thinks that some amazing trial skills automatically result in a great jury verdict. In fact, those back to back verdicts were a good personal reminder that it’s still always about the client, hard work, and the evidence that makes up about 95% of a successful verdict.
History records the fall of Rome, with its many reasons. Sometimes we wonder how our leaders and politicians get off the rail in their public and personal lives. Those words whispered to the conquerors are a good reminder to focus on the perspiration instead of the parades.