Most litigation clients are understandably frustrated by the slow speed at which litigation can proceed. Good lawyers not only show understanding for this, they try to make up for it by not tarrying in the work they do. This is especially particular in following up with clients (trust me, the smartest, most interested client may never appreciate how well your litigation tactic worked, or how that brief really was a marvel, but they will remember if you didn’t call them back when you said you would).
But, sometimes, speed is not the answer. Litigation takes too damned long, yes. But that observation doesn’t mean everything needs to speed up.
For one thing, you need to appreciate how we think. I wonder at times if I’m really using the word as it’s meant to be used, but I frequently discuss topics or ideas with colleagues at my firm days or weeks before we need to decide or address something because I think our minds cogitate (that was the word) in the background. If we force the idea in our heads and give it some attention, our brains seem to work on it when we are not conscious of it, and we end up being more thoughtful in the end.
For another thing, sometimes a given topic, work, or task just requires more time. I’ve more than once been hustling from one meeting to another and want to resolve something in a call with a client or colleague or adversary. But as I’m discussing the issue, I can feel the need for more time. When that happens, I try my best to slow down: maybe we need to keep this call going longer, or we need to speak later; it may just require more time. The same can go with preparation: you have a sense that a court conference won’t take more than 15 minutes of preparation, but then when you get into the documents you realize there’s a lot you don’t know, or you just read something relevant you need to go back to. In any event, sometimes things simply need more time devoted to them.
Attend to your clients’ and your colleagues’ and your courts’ desires to move things along. But to win for your clients, give your work the time it needs — by planning and, sometimes, by simply devoting more time to your work.
John Balestriere is an entrepreneurial trial lawyer who founded his firm after working as a prosecutor and litigator at a small firm. He is a partner at trial and investigations law firm Balestriere Fariello in New York, where he and his colleagues represent domestic and international clients in litigation, arbitration, appeals, and investigations. You can reach him by email at [email protected].