New York Personal Injury Law Blog » John McCain


July 27th, 2017

From McCain’s Mouth to the Trial Lawyer’s Ear

John McCain, July 25, 2017

When Sen. John McCain made his return to the Senate this week after his brain cancer diagnosis, all ears were on what he was saying about Trump’s attempt to alter/change/abolish Obamacare.

But as I read his comments from the Senate floor something else entirely jumped off the page at me. His comments about political “adversaries.”

And that word adversary is put in quotes for a reason, for one must appreciate that today’s adversary is tomorrow’s ally. If people disagree 75% of the time, for example, it means that they agree 25% of the time and will sometimes want to work together.

He was referring to politicians, but the same holds true for divorcing parents, or in my case, trial lawyers.

His comments, with my bolding for where I think the importance lies:

The Senate, Mr. McCain said, has not “been overburdened by greatness lately; they aren’t producing much for the American people. Both sides have let this happen.”

In self-reproach, he added: “Sometimes I’ve let my passion rule my reason. Sometimes I made it harder to find common ground because of something harsh I said to a colleague.”

Lawyers, of course, are duty-bound to zealously advocate for clients. Sometimes, however, that zealousness and passion spills over to the personal when two folks argue and jockey over an issue. But reason dictates that no matter how hard you fight over an issue, that you can’t let the passion get in the way of the big picture.

For one day you might need to talk candidly to that legal adversary, as when it comes time to settle a case. How well have you served your client if, due to passion, you are unable to have that candid conversation with your adversary to settle because you got caught up with the passion over the smaller one?

While lawyers involved in litigation talk about winning and losing, what we are really doing is engaging in risk management. At some point, depending on the facts, it may  be in the client’s interest to take 80 cents on the dollar. Or 50. Or even 25. So too for the lawyer on the other side, recognizing that an all-or-none bet is not necessarily the risk that the client can afford to take.

Passion, as McCain notes, sometimes spills itself all over reason.  And that’s well worth trying to remember in the heat of a fight.


3 thoughts on “From McCain’s Mouth to the Trial Lawyer’s Ear

  1. Not necessarily directly related to this post, but I note that, now that government and Drumpf lawyers have to deal with a notorious public serial prevaricator for a client, that they now may become a part of the story, rather than merely the shadowy eminence as before. About time!

    Case in point is the oft-repeated story that Drumpf lawyers only meet with him in pairs so as to discourage him from telling two different tales. It does not seem to have helped. What a poop show!

    But, apparently, some lawyers revel in the notoriety and risk their license so as to oblige The Orange One in order to WIN!. But, who decides licensing? Well, the eventual WINNERS! Take the risk, baby!

    Hey, as a burlesque comic once taught me this punch line many years ago as a young comic, “GOTTA EAT!”

  2. I trod the boards for a few years as a member of Beverley Bonner’s various sketch comedy groups (q.v.) around Manhattan, and that also included some stand up routines. My last gig was late last year when I appeared on stage in my own bit as a cook from the closed Soviet compound on Long Island. Shared some great secrets about the Drumpf (all improv, so no record exists, sadly). Am on tap to do a bit in a short comedy video by Beverly this fall, but the constant commute became a bit much in the end.

    Beverley and her troupes appear regularly at the Broadway Comedy Club and are worth a look.

    The comic inspiration/mentor mentioned in the above post was by example, not pedagogy, since as teenagers, my friends and I had a way to sneak into the Casino Theater in Pittsburgh, one of the last burlesque houses in the US. Yes, we were there for the view, but I loved the comics and I picked up a lot of ideas to use later in life. I think that one above was named Bert (or Burt) Farr, but I can find no evidence of him online. He had no teeth, wore the traditional baggy pants and overly long tie, and a pork pie hat. Except for the “no teeth”, you can recognize some of those characteristics in our current administration. “GOTTA EAT!” is the rationale for any obvious criminal enterprise in view.