The title is a little self-evident here. Does anyone want to argue that losing a Court case is a good feeling? As highly motivated, slightly egotistical, and generally well informed people, lawyers hate losing a Court case. It’s especially annoying when you felt you had a persuasive argument.
I had a couple of experiences recently which have reminded me that in every piece of litigation, there is always one side who is more successful than the other.
Losing a Court Case – The Aftermath
If you lose you get the following wonderful tasks to complete:
- you get to tell your client, if they weren’t there to watch it unfold. This is generally a pretty unpleasant experience and one that is best approached after taking a deep breath. If you are in litigation and you haven’t done this yet, then you will. Good communication skills and relationship will help you here.
- if applicable, you get to tell your supervisor or partner that you lost the case. This is ordinarily a joy, as your supervisor looks to go over in excruciating detail all of the arguments they felt you should have put to the Court
- paying the other side’s costs (ordinarily, at least) – this will often come from your client, and hopefully you explained to them the risks of this going into the hearing in the first place.
- figuring out what to bill your own client for the experience. As draconian as people think lawyers are in this regard, personally I always struggle with the concept of issuing a large bill for a significant loss. I know, intellectually, that losing the Court case was always a factor – but I don’t have to feel good about it.
The Benefits of Losing a Court Case
There aren’t really that many, but I’m going to take a stab at putting in a few options here in the hope that they will help you should you experience this in your own practice any time:
- It’s always a learning experience. This is, of course, completely trite. However there is no loss in Court from which you cannot learn some kind of lesson. Maybe it’s a lesson about that Judge, the other side, your client, your advocacy skills, preparation issues, the relevance (or irrelevance) of case law to a particular argument. There are a myriad of things to learn, even if the most irrational loss.
- In an adversarial Court system, there is normally a “winner” and a “loser”. If it wasn’t you and your client who lost, then it would be the other lawyer and their client. If the case was completely clear cut, the chances are pretty good that you wouldn’t have been in Court in the first place about it. This is a lesson well worth learning, and one which can take a few years to become accustomed to – if you can grasp it without becoming cynical, then I count it a benefit.
- You generally get to pack up the file and make some space in your office after losing.
What to Do After Losing a Court Case
Of course losing is a bad day. What you do next is really this depends on the scale of the loss. In a smallish loss, I’d go for a glass of merlot. However if it’s a big one you might need to go to Shiraz or Cab Sav. I don’t recommend Single Malt after losing a Court case – it gets messy and expensive.
After that – pick yourself up, and get back to work. Don’t let the experience make you cynical – it happens every day to lawyers around the world – you’re in very good company.