Category Archives: Motivation


We are still in our jury trial in Seattle which doesn’t leave much time to keep this blog as current as  I would like. But, this week I’d like to share some thoughts about how we view life as trial lawyers. Some of this directly does  apply to trying cases and some of it is general advice about our attitudes about life.

The late Ann Landers printed these “tips for life” one time in her advice column:

1.         When you say I’m sorry, look the person in the eye.

2.         Love deeply and passionately. You might get hurt, but it’s the only way to live life completely.

3.         Call your mom

4.         Smile when picking up the phone. The caller will hear it in your voice.

5.         Remember silence is sometimes the best answer

6.         When you have an argument with someone close to you, deal with the current situation and don’t bring up the past.

7.         Never interrupt when you are being complimented

8.         Mind your own business

9.         Trust in God, but lock your door

10.       When you know you are wrong, take immediate steps to fix it.

Alexander Chalmers, the Scottish writer, has said “The three grand essentials of happiness are:  Something to do, someone to love and something to hope for.” Bill Cosby was quoted as saying: “I cannot give you the formula for success, but I can give you the formula for failure – try to please everybody.”

William Van Hooser gave his rule for long life as “Life’s a dance. Take it one step at a time and keep listening for the music.”

When two rodeo cowboys from Twin Bridges, Montana were asked about their rule of life they said “There’s only about three things that’s really most important. Be honest, do your best and like what you’re doing. And get up as good as winner as you are a loser.” They were talking about rodeo, but the advice is good for  all of  us.

As someone has said, “do what you enjoy, what you’re best at and life will let you find a way to succeed.”

Now here’s a quote that I think does apply to trying cases. Christian D. Larson said “Promise yourself to be so strong that nothing can disturb your peace of mind; to talk health happiness and prosperity; to forget the mistakes of the past and profit by them; to wear a cheerful countenance and give a smile to everyone you meet; to be too large for worry, too noble for anger, too strong for fear and too happy to permit the presence of trouble.”

It’s been pointed out that life is like an hour glass. Only one grain of sand can pass at a time. When you are so busy you are flying in all directions remember that each of the tasks need to be dealt with one at a time and not all at once. That’s a good idea for us to remember when we have so many issues to deal with at the same  time.

Another set  of ideas I think we should consider are: Live with enthusiasim. Dance like nobody is watching. Work like you don’t need the money and love like you have never been hurt.

Well that’s all I have time for. I hope something here is helpful. Thanks for reading this blog.


I’m involved in a jury trial in Seattle which presents unique challenges. I went back over my past writings for some inspiration and thought I’d select this as much for you as for me:

We must have dogged determination in the face of adversity

The key to achieving success for our clients lies in overcoming adversity with dogged determination. Calvin Coolidge was the  30th President of the United States. He once wrote:

“Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common then unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan “press on” has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race”

A heroic example of determination occurred on October 29, 1915 when a group of Antarctic explorers were trapped on the frozen Weddel sea with their vessel, Endurance, locked in the ice and were forced to abandon the vessel. After nine months the ship had begun to be crushed by the ice. They had no radios. All they had were 70 sled dogs, a supply of food and three 22 foot life boats. Led by Sir Ernest Shackleton they began to drag the boats across the ice pack towards an open sea some 350 miles away. Shackleton’s plan was to sail from there across over a 1000 miles of rough sea to the nearest civilization. It would mean covering that distance through floating ice and one of the roughest, most unpredictable seas in the world. The men carried the clothes they wore, two pair of mittens, six pair of socks, two pair of boots, a sleeping bag and a pound of tobacco plus two pounds of personal belongings. It was a tremendous struggle that took thirteen months of starvation, danger, near death and freezing temperature, but Shackleton led them to safety without losing one life.

Then there is the story of the determination of Tom Dempsey who was born without a right hand and with only half a right foot. He was determined to play football and became a place kicker. By dogged determination and long hours of practice he played in college and was good enough to be signed by the New Orleans Saints. On November 8, 1970 the Saints were behind in a game against Detroit 17-16 with only two seconds to go on Detroit’s forty five yard line. The Saints sent in Dempsey to attempt a sixty three yard field goal. Dempsey kicked the ball and set a NFL field goal record when it cleared the uprights to win the game for the Saints.

An African slave who was given the name Sojourner Truth lived in the 1790′s. She escaped and obtained her freedom. She could neither read nor write but became an unmatched story teller and orator for women’s rights in the early years of this country. She could transfix audiences with her presence and her spellbinding oratory in spite of a lack of education and in spite of racist attacks against her and the other women suffrage advocates. She was determined and nothing could stop her. Against all odds  every kind of attempt to silence her, she struggled on with her message and became famous in doing so.

So, let’s remember the lines of the poem:  ”If a task is once begun, never leave it till it’s done. Be the labor big or be it small, do it well or not at all.”

I plan to give it my best.



Today I’d like to offer some random ideas on a couple of subjects that apply to us as trial lawyers. Let’s start with the subject of meeting new people and remembering names. That’s a skill we all need to learn.

Paul Mellor is the president of success links a memory training company who presented a CLE for lawyers on that subject. He used the acronym COURT which stands for concentrate, observe, understand, repeat and translate. He says that to remember a name it’s vital that we concentrate on the name that is given. We need to be listening. As to observe, he says that if we are observing the person who is giving us their name we are at a disadvantage and remembering. Look into the person’s eyes when the name is said. Train yourself to study facial features. We also have to understand. Names are important so you need to understand how to say them correctly. If you didn’t catch the name ask to have it repeated or spelled. It’s also important that we repeat the name immediately. Lastly he uses translate to mean that we should translate the name into a picture such as Beverly becoming beverage in order to help us remember the name.

Roger Dawson has written a number of excellent books that are helpful resources for lawyers. One of  them is Secrets of Power Persuasion. Dawson has these rules for meeting people and remembering their names. He recommends that you treat everyone you meet as if he or she is the most important people that you will meet that day. He says we should have a sensational handshake and need to learn how to give a proper handshake. He recommends looking into the eyes of the other person and using that technique of checking what color eyes the person has in order to remember to make eye contact. He says that as we make contact with a new person we are meeting, that we think positive thoughts. One should remember to smile and to hold the smile. Dawson also recommends that to remember names we need to first make sure we understood how to pronounce them. Ask the other person to spell the name if necessary. Dawson also recommends associating the name with something tangible in order to remember the name. He says it’s important to repeat the name and to use it as soon as possible in the conversation. Dawson also recommends that we remember to give sincere compliments.

On another self improvement subject, I’d like to also suggest that, as trial lawyers, we accept the fact that if we do our job well and with courage we will make enemies. We need to accept that fact and act with courage rather than worrying about how people will feel when we are doing something in our client’s best interests.  I think Charles Mackay said it well. He was an English poet who died in 1889. He wrote these lines:

“You have no enemies you say.
Alas my friend the boast is poor
Those that mingle in the fray
That the brave endure
Must have made foes.

If you have none,
Small is the work that you have done.
You’ve smote no traitor on the hip
You’ve dashed no cup from perjured lip.

You’ve never changed a wrong to right.
You’ve been a coward in the fight.”

So, how do we deal with the fact people may not like us and some even hate us as well as what we do as a profession? We can listen to Abraham Lincoln who said: 

“If I were to try to read, much less answer all the attacks, made on me, this shop might as well be closed for any other business. I do the very best I know how – the best I can; and I mean to keep on doing so until the end. If the end brings me out all right, then what is said against me won’t matter. If the end brings me out wrong, then ten angels swearing I was right would make no difference.”

Here’s another view of the same concern we have as normal human beings who want to be liked by everyone. The late Robert Mitchum was interviewed in 1994. He pointed out that “There are always people who will object. If you are short, tall people will diminish you. If you are tall, shorter people don’t like you. If you’re alive, people wish you were dead. I do the best I can for the most I can and if it displeases somebody, I’m sorry. I take what came and did the best I could with it.”

We should be proud of what we do as trial lawyers and always act with honesty, ethics and courage in representing our clients, come what may. Our attitude about our professional work should be that expressed by Theodore Roosevelt in a speech he gave in Paris in April of 1910 at the Sorbonne. One of the things he said should be our inspiration:

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

That’s my advice for now. I hope found something helpful in it.