Grabbing Hope from the Jaws of Defeat


I am not Denny Crane. This is sad for me.

I am not the lawyer that has gone his entire career without a loss. My first trial as a first-year associate was a glorious defeat. Forget the one-time loss, I am a lawyer that loses in some facet almost every day of the work-week. But that’s the thing, it’s part of what I bargained for so that I could be in this business. This law thing is not for those who cannot cope with losing.


Litigation clearly is the field that is all about winning or losing, but losing is not limited to those attorneys who work in the halls of justice. Everything that a lawyer does is judged on whether or not you have won. As someone that dabbles in the dark, distasteful, and derided arts of ambulance chasing Plaintiff’s litigation, I get the distinct pleasure of having my head kicked in far more frequently that I would like. It can start with a minor setback: a potential client has wasted 30 minutes of your time only to reveal the fact that she has already hired another lawyer (and was just looking for a second opinion). It can be a stunning defeat after spending two years litigating delivered in the form of Defendant’s Motion for Summary Judgment (that the judge hears oral argument on then hands you a 10 page typed written order . . . thanks for wasting more of my time, your “Honor”). Or it could be the worst possible defeat: a jury of citizens finds the defendant not guilty.

Losing, in any or all of these ways, sucks.

I hate losing. I hate losing more than I hate stupid people, taxes and cable news combined. Losing is an affront to my soul and offends every fiber of my being. Unfortunately, I am awash in the stench of defeat each day I suit up. The simple fact I’ve slowly realized (it’s only taken four years) is that no matter what I do, I’ll be seconds away from another moment that will end up in the loss column. I’ve developed several clichéd coping methods that helps with the all of the losing that goes on around my office: Scotch, Tequila and Moonshine. And I suppose I do drink a healthy amount of wine as well.

What? Doesn’t everyone have wine shipped to their office by the case? Oh.

Before this website gets shut down for encouraging substance abuse amongst lawyers and the Chicago Cubs as the preferred method for dealing with not winning, I’ll actually put forward the two additional ways that I make it through the work day: laughing at your failures and celebrating the shit out of your victories. The victories, especially if you are a Plaintiff’s lawyer, come in too few of a quantity and are too far between each other. Thus, they have to be commemorated accordingly.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, my glass is empty and I need to go find a victory.

Post image from Flickr

Read more posts on Bitter Lawyer from the Namby Pamby. Or follow his writing on thenambypambyblog.com or @thenambypamby.

6 Comments

  1. Amarus

    August 2, 2011 at 8:49 pm

    I too hate losing. I take out my frustration by pointing out the tiny and unimportant mistakes that other people make. Example: you wrote that you represent plaintiffs then talked about how you hate it when “a jury of citizens finds the defendant not guilty.” Civil defendants aren’t adjudged guilty; they’re adjudged liable.

    Ah, much better. Now time for a victory drink.

  2. Bill

    August 3, 2011 at 5:43 am

    You are probably right, but bring on the bimbos. I saw a broad who is a lifeguard at a pool over the weekend. She was fat and sloppy looking. Whatever became of bay-watch babes? This fat slob looked like a cow! What is this world coming to?

  3. Juris Depravis

    August 4, 2011 at 3:24 pm

    Exactly how many civil cases have you tried where the defendants were found “not guilty?”

    • Sam Glover

      August 4, 2011 at 4:08 pm

      I’m sure the jury generally thinks it has found the defendant not guilty when it fails to find liability or zeroes out the plaintiff in civil cases.

      • Juris Depravis

        August 5, 2011 at 9:40 am

        That is all well and god, but this is not a site for those unwashed masses, is it?

        Standards, folks, standards. This is the kind of stuff that drove Pirsig bonkers when he was a teacher.

        • Sam Glover

          August 5, 2011 at 9:51 am

          Maybe he’s using it ironically, and his disappointment is that an ignorant group of your “unwashed masses” found a civil defendant “not guilty” (in their minds) instead of understanding the case and rendering an appropriate verdict.

          (Or it’s just an unintentional error. Just sayin’.)

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