Two thoughts about our role as plaintiff trial lawyers

1. We must be willing to fight for what we know to be right

Every worthwhile goal has obstacles. As Albert Einstein has said: "Great spirits have always encountered violent opposition from mediocre minds." That’s why it’s been rightly pointed out that the door to success is marked "push." The classic work on motivation, Think and Grow Rich says it well: Great achievement is born out of struggle. All rivers and some people are crooked because they follow the path of least resistance. Observe electric light bulb. It glows precisely because there is resistance." Many of us choose the shortest, easiest, quickest way to success, only to discover that the easy way to our objectives is very often illusory – the bulb will not glow without resistance. Sir Winston Churchill was right to point out that "kites rise highest against the wind; not with it."

Years ago Orson Welles arguing the benefits of struggle observed: "In Italy for thirty years under the Borgias they had warfare, terror, murder, bloodshed. But they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci and the Renaissance. In Switzerland they had brotherly love, five hundred years of democracy and peace. What did that produce? The cuckoo clock!"

When we meet obstacles we must not give up because they appear to be too great for us to overcome. We don’t know what our real capacity and skills are until we have been tested. As the late great football coach Paul "Bear" Bryant said "You never know how a horse will pull until you hook him to a heavy load."

That’s why you who are willing to fight the good fight, subject yourself to the tests and carry on the battles for your clients are entitled to the credit a critic is not entitled. Our 26th President, Theodore Roosevelt gave a famous speech at the Sorbonne in Paris April 23, 1910 which became known as the "the man in the arena" speech. He told the audience:

"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 up 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"

2. 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"

We see examples of persistence in nature. If you visit the Mammoth Cave in Kentucky you will see huge pillars that were formed by a steady dropping of liquid from the ceiling. A single drop runs down from the ceiling and deposits a sediment on the floor of the cave, followed by another and still another until an icicle of stone forms a pillar of rock.

Woody Allen quipped that "ninety-eight percent of life is showing up"but the fact is that our professional life is really a continuous series of obstacles we must meet, overcome and move under, around over, or through. It is our determination that makes the difference important in our struggles for our clients. But that’s not something new for us. How did you learn to skate?, someone asked. The answer was: By getting up every time I fell down. We must be prepared to fall, get up and move ahead even if we fall again. It is the determination to "do" that makes the difference. In The Empire Strikes Back, Yoda says to Luke Skywalker: "Do or do not. There is no try." We must do.

In 1968 a marathon runner demonstrated determination in Mexico City. By the time John Stephen Akwari of Tanzania entered the stadium he was the last person to complete the marathon. The winner had already been crowned and the stadium was almost empty when he finished. All alone and late in the evening. But he circled the track with his injured leg and finished the race. It’s reported that he was asked why he bothered to complete the race he said "My country did not send me 9000 miles to start the race. They sent me 9000 miles to finish the race." Our job is to finish the race for our clients

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.

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