Years ago, I was watching an interview with the coach of one of Victoria’s less successful football teams, a few days before they were due to play the team sitting on top of the ladder. Everyone in Australia, including the interviewer, assumed they were going to lose. This was so long ago that I can’t remember which team it was, or who they were due to play against. I do remember that they did in fact go on to lose the game as expected.
The interviewer asked the coach how the coaching staff prepare for a match in those circumstances. The answer was quite fascinating.
The coach said that he would do what he always did, which was to spend the week looking at match-ups, trying to work out what the other team would do tactically and coming up with plans to counter those tactics. He then went on to say that when you spend the week doing that, by Thursday you are always convinced that you are going to win. Unfortunately, there’s also someone on the other side doing exactly the same thing.
This is something that everyone, especially lawyers, should remember whenever they are dealing with a legal dispute.
Everyone who goes into Court goes in with a strategy and plans for how they will win, but only one of them is actually going to succeed. Being a lawyer is a little bit like being a football coach in that it’s one of the few jobs where while you are working very hard to succeed in dealing with a complex issue, someone else is working equally hard to try to stop you from winning.
When people in a dispute, or their lawyers, forget about this, that’s when people make poor decisions about whether to settle a case, and leave themselves open to the terrible experience of losing a case and have to pay huge amounts in legal costs.
This is why its always really important to sit down at the start of any dispute and have a very careful look at the case so you can work out the strengths and weaknesses. It’s also important to keep doing this regularly for as long as the dispute continues. Most of all, it’s essential that the lawyers do not get so focused on strategy that the forget the big picture.