“I’m not Denny Crane,” IMPACT & Membership
By Tré Kitchens, 2010-11 ATLA Presiden-Elect
* Originally published in the ATLA Docket, Winter 2010
I only know of three lawyers who claim to have never lost a case: a fictional character from Boston Legal, Denny Crane; Gerry Spence who claims to have not lost a case since Nixon was in office; and a young Plaintiff’s lawyer who will remain nameless and was half drunk when she made the claim.
I’ve lost. So have you if you’ve been in the business very long at all. It happens in our professional and personal lives. As trial lawyers, we find ourselves in the unique situation that when we lose we are not the ones who pay the real price. We lose money, time, pride and move onto the next case and the next client. Our clients lose the ability to hold someone responsible for the loss of a loved one, the ability to pay for medical treatment, the ability to care for their family, their children in custody cases, and at times their very freedom.
Who are we fighting? Primarily we fight bigger, better financed opponents who aren’t burdened with the emotional commitment we have to our clients. I have never talked to an insurance defense lawyer who worried about the “consequences” to Allstate or State Farm if they lose a case. Insurance companies and the “State” don’t care that we are fighting out of our weight class and generally are willing to do whatever it takes to win.
So why do we do it? Why do we fight the fight? I have friends who claim it’s because they didn’t have the grades in college to get them into medical school. However, I believe for most of us, our motivation is more than that of taking a “lesser path,” if you could call the agony and ecstasy of being a trial lawyer a lesser path. We do this for the same reason Muhammad Ali fought George Foreman in 1974. Foreman was bigger, stronger, younger. Many worried for Ali’s safety in the fight. The only person who really believed Ali would win was Ali. That powerful belief came true. We do the same every time we take on the establishment! We believe that the individual has equal footing to the giant corporation. We believe that just because the State claims someone did something they still have to prove it. And, just often enough to keep us coming back for more, our belief becomes reality, and the little guy actually does win.
Most times the tyranny of the urgent prevents us from remembering the higher ideals of our profession. The bills, the family, the deadlines can cause us to put the real reason we do this job on the upper shelf. ATLA pulls those higher ideals down and dusts them off. We need to be reminded that while we do this job for a living, by doing our job we allow our clients to continue living.
Imagine a 9-5 job with no purpose. Selling widgets for some company or pushing paper and finishing TPS reports. Now be thankful that your job matters. You matter. Your clients simply would be lost without you. That is the reality of our world.
Now realize that the one organization in this State that fights for your continued ability to take care of your clients is ATLA Tort reform, limits on attorney’s fees, the loss of the jury are all very real threats to our profession and our clients. Next session the legislature will address some if not all of these issues. Who will help you in this fight? ATLA. Now get out your checkbook and help ATLA fight the political fight.
Why? Why spend my money for IMPACT. I mean, it seems ATLA always has its hand out. IMPACT is for the candidates, that’s all. IMPACT funds go to support legislators who believe what we belief. With term limits we have to educate each new crop of Representatives and Senators that come to Little Rock. IMPACT funds help ensure that we elect lawmakers who will listen to our issues and aren’t beholden to the corporations and the establishment.
Help us. Help yourself. And most importantly help your clients. Foreman hit Ali hard, our opponents hit harder.