Friday, May 21, 2010


If ever you doubt the importance of team lawyering, I would suggest that you observe a case tried by a well integrated group of attorneys. Headed for litigation? Demand good teamwork. Otherwise you'll get the other end of it – the dysfunctional representation, as, for example (in my opinion), the representation of the bad guys in the case before us. So, demand discussions (of narratives, of forests) and demand teamwork. And get yourself an Ed for a client. And hope that the wind blows in a good direction.

An Anonymous commenter posted this message, which I refuse to publish in the comments section, because – how many times do I have to say this – I will not publish comments without a name attached to them. Anyway, this is the comment -- which I found to be thought provoking and so I took the extraordinary step of putting it into the text of the post, being rather a stickler for my policy on not publishing completely anonymous comments in the comments section (see previous sentence):

We just finished our own "Good Guy" vs "Bad Guy" lawsuit in NYC. Like Ed's, ours never should have been filed, but when someone with deep pockets and attorneys for family members wishes to use the law as a bludgeon, the courts say, "Bring it on..." After 2 years of motions, depositions and appearances, our "Bad Guys", just the day before trial is to begin, say, "Never mind.." We, now being some $30,000 lighter, find it difficult to celebrate a win. Our legal system, and the concept of "justice", has left us flat. Here's hoping Ed's side, the "Good Guys", get a better measure of justice than we did..

I do have a thought or two on this.

Justice, fairness... uff! That’s a tough one. Did I mention that the law suits that I’ve been tracking here, in New York, ones that have been draining energy and resources for close to ten years are (in my opinion, but not only) completely without merit? And even as one can expect a favorable outcome this time (though truly, you never know, as judges’ minds can work in mysterious ways), everyone knows it will be appealed. As you say – stuff some money into the pocket of a litigious man and you’re in for years of legal harassment. And I mean harassment. Where not only Ed, but a number of members from his family are suffering simply because one person didn’t like the way two people wrote their wills (Ed is the executor and trustee – a thankless job if I ever saw one).

The solution? Surely there should be a greater penalty against frivolous lawsuits. But of course, we will all squabble endlessly as to what constitutes “frivolous.” (If you want examples, ask me about the ones I’ve just spend ten days listening to. With experts, counter experts, depositions, motions – you name it, we had it.)

So, in answer to the commenter's generous hope that Ed should fare better: no, that can’t happen. Moreover, there is no feeling of relief after the trail. It went so well, so brilliantly well, but should I believe that fairness will prevail? The drain on resources will continue, the bad guys will not stop. The reality may, in the end, have little to do with fairness.


But I’m straying from the narrative of Ocean, so let me step back and begin earlier, at a time when we were still grabbing a very good muffin and an espresso at Once Upon a Tart. I like that place. Customers are regulars and they like to hang out. Of course. A West Village habit.


A few more blocks and the scene changes. We're approaching the judicial hub of the city.


The name tags come out, Ed reaches for the rolled up shirt and tie in my bag, we go in.

In the morning portion of the proceedings, Ed has another chance to address the monumental incompetence of the work done on behalf of the “bad guys.” He is passionate and extremely in command of detail. His attorney (teamwork!) ask all the good questions, Ed sails with emphatic and forceful answers. His narrative is superb.

...even as it depletes his energy for the rest of the day. Ed is not a confrontational person by nature, his New Yorkedness notwithstanding.

We recess for lunch and Ed and I eat at the wonderful Odeon on West Broadway, where you can have eggs even at 1 pm and where the teamwork (!) of the wait staff is exceptional. But I can see it in Ed’s eyes: he’s spinning back to the court room. His mind is on the trial. (Yes, it's true: he sheds the court clothing the minute we leave Chambers Street.)


We have an hour still before the resumption of proceedings and so he and I head for the southern tip of Manhattan. My goal is to reach the Battery Park, but we stray toward 1 World Trade Center, where the new tower is now finally under construction.


Did I mention how almost painfully sunny it is on this day?

The final testimony is of another expert, testifying well but irrelevantly about matters that have little meaning and even less consequence for anyone. And finally we're done. As a last task, there is a review of the issues remaining before the court. Of some forty idiotic ones, about a dozen (still idiotic) remain.

And that's rather discouraging: to realize that the “bad guys” have stubbornly insisted on keeping on the table issues that should have been thrown out with last year’s trash.

Being rather sentimental about good work and especially good teamwork, I am sad to say goodbye to the attorneys. From this point on, their work will not require (I don’t think) Ed’s presence (and therefore my presence) in New York. I’ll have memories of the excellent skills that went into the arguments offered in response to the absurd arguments of the bad guys. I’ll surely have these lessons with me next time I discuss a legal issue with students back home.

Ed is completely spent. We pause at Bruno’s for a sugar boost...


...but upon our return to the Bleecker Street walk up, after making reservations for an early flight back on Saturday, he cannot stay awake.

It’s late now. You think maybe we should celebrate? No, my travel companion is the one with the “every day’s a birthday” slogan running through his brain. I go out and get him egg rolls from his new favorite egg roll place and for myself – a pizza.


We are often of different minds as to what constitutes a good meal. But I have to say, in the matter of the trial, we were completely in agreement. Along with the attorneys. Teamwork.