As I read Shakespeare I continually see his wisdom applying to me. This week let me cite some examples to see what you think
HE JESTS AT SCARS WHO NEVER FELT A WOUND
How true this is. We see in life example after example of this truth. A strong advocate of tort reform and caps has a disabling injury and now complains bitterly about the unfairness of their personal situation. The young person who has yet to experience any pain or injury in their life, trivializes the injury and pain of others. Lacking personal experience we all tend to minimize the complaints and disabilities of others with phrases like: “just get over it and move on.”
It’s our role as plaintiff’s attorneys to first, totally understand how our client’s injuries, pain and disability truly impacts their daily lives and second, to be able to translate that in practical ways to the jurors. Knowing that the jurors who have not experienced pain or injury minimize the meaning of both to others, we must be our client’s spokesperson.
SWEET ARE THE USES OF ADVERSITY
This is a hard truth to accept. When crisis come and our case experiences a turn for the worse, we always tend to see the most negative implications. When we don’t get the result we hoped for or lose our case, we are totally discouraged and began to question our skills as advocates. That’s human nature for everyone except the narcissistic.
What years of experience as plaintiff’s trial lawyer has taught me is that adversity has its own rewards if we search for them with the right state of mind. Perhaps our case wasn’t as wonderful as we originally believed and learning it early saved us more grief. Not all turns that appear to be for the worse are. Some need to be seen from a new fresh angle as potential helps, perhaps in simplifying the case. Our losses teach us far more than do our victories if we have the courage to realistically examine what happened. Not all bad events are as bad as we think.
SPEAK ON, BUT NOT OVER TEDIOUS
When Hamlet talks to the players about how he wants them to perform his play he gives them excellent advice we trial lawyers can learn from. He says “speak on, but not over tedious; Men of few words are the best men and an honest tale speeds best being plainly told.” How often these very basic rules broken by us long are winded, unorganized and egotistical advocates. We talk too much. We talk to long and we talk too complicated or patronizing. We read this and intellectually say to ourselves “yes, that’s true,” but we never apply it to ourselves. We need to see a video of ourselves arguing something to grasp how universal the failure really is and how important it is to change.
Hamlet also tells the players: “Suit the action to the word, the word to the action, with this special observance, that you o’erstep not the modesty of nature: for anything so o’erdone is from the purpose of playing, whose and, both at the first and now, was and is, to hold as were the mirror up to nature: to show virtue her feature, scorn her own image, and the very age and body of the time is form and pressure.” He admonishes them to be congruent. Their words must match their body language. They must not be overly dramatic, but totally sincere and realistic because their role is to be mirror of what they are supposed to be communicating.
So, Shakespeare goes on to point out: “Men should be what they seem.” What a powerfully important rule. We should be what we seem to be. He warns there are insincere people: “One may smile, and smile, and be a villain!” and “Things are often spoke and seldom meant.” He warns us that “The devil can cite Scripture for his purpose” so we shouldn’t believe everything we hear. The most important rule he gives us is “To thine own self be true.”
What more important rule of persuasion could be that one is a totally authentic human being, totally sincere and without artificial pretense. Isn’t that our criticism of others: “She was only acting? She didn’t really mean it.” Our job is to suit the action to the word and the word to the action in all of our advocacy.
OUR DOUBTS ARE TRAITORS AND MAKE US LOSE THE GOOD WE OFT MIGHT WIN BY FEARING TO ATTEMPT
Shakespeare has much to say about courage. In addition to this admonition he also writes: “Screw your courage to the sticking place” and “Thus does conscience make cowards of us all and thus the native hue of resolution is sickled over with the pale cast of thought.” The benefit of a confident and positive minded plaintiff’s trial lawyer is that they are courageous enough to plow ahead in spite of the risk of failure. Not doing so, as Shakespeare points out, often means we lose what we would have gained because we were afraid to attempt it. Certainly, we must all weigh our odds and consider all relevant factors in making these kinds of decisions, but let’s face it, we know we have failed to obtain a good result because we were afraid to take the chance and instead took the easy way out. That’s why Shakespeare points out “Cowards die many times before their deaths, the valiant never taste of death but once.”
AND TWO FINAL THOUGHTS FROM SHAKESPEARE
One thing we need to keep in mind is the importance of the good things we do for others, even those that seen inconsequential. Shakespeare notes: “How far that little candle throws his beams! So shines a good deed and a naughty world.” We should do well for others. That’s our role in life. We are the physicians of the injured, the wronged and those in need of justice.
Lastly, when you are wronged keep in mind what Shakespeare says: “Thus the whirligig of time brings in his revenges.” Current age translation: “What goes around, comes around.” There is a Karma in this life where eventually we are punished for our wrongs and those that wrong us will eventually get what they deserve as well. Shakespeare says so!