THE GAME Loving Litigation, But Not Too Much « Law Offices of Timothy Bowles | Top Employment Law Firm in Los Angeles

Loving Litigation, But Not Too Much

[Note: previously published about a year back; annual repetition is likely not enough.]

After complimenting our preparations in a recent trial, the thus-appreciated judge then declined my pitch to place his views on our firm’s Yelp page. Nice try counsel.

A Berkeley hippie from the 60s, I went off to 70s law school determined to use eventual skill and position to beat back injustice somewhere. My class recently commemorated 45 years out in the world.  Snap your fingers: boom, 45 years man.

Back when wetter behind the ears, I had a vague vision of political futures, standing before multitudes, telling it like it is, admired or at least respected by all.

Rather, by turns and circumstance, I landed in the courts, beginning as the proverbial spear carrier, second or third “chair” as we say.  My mentor, the near-peerless Earle Cooley of Boston, put my supporting role succinctly: “today you stay seated and shut up, eyes forward in a gaze of strategic cunning.”

I have since had a more-than-fair share of lead work, our firm largely defending employers in the soup, also known as California civil litigation.  The deal:

  • If you are an owner or manager facing a former employee’s threatened or filed suit, our condolences. If it’s any consolation, you are not alone.  By rough count, we see as many as 100 such cases initiated in L.A. County every week. We welcome you to a whole new universe, the legal one;
  • Law practice is not a science; it is an art;
  • A lawsuit is not a replay of what actually occurred between the contending parties, it is a reenactment contest with respective lawyers the directors;
  • While attorney duty is to represent the client “zealously within the bounds of the law,” zeal is civilly managed passion and diligence, not unhinged, ridiculing rage.  We “do” litigation surgically, not with flamethrowers.  There is a time to fight like hell, but that cannot be an end in itself;
  • Accordingly, it’s a rare employment case that has any business making it to trial; if it got that far, it’s likely a case that’s been mismanaged by either or both sides;
  • The practical pressures on the contenders can and should commonly lead to settlement if: a) the lawyers do their work thoroughly and, vis-à-vis each other, with relative honesty; b) each lawyer can thus constructively educate all concerned: own client, opposing counsel, opposing party, possible mediator; and c) both sides can with relative rationality evaluate the good sense of resolving the matter and moving on;
  • While litigation is not a little like dentistry without the Novocain, employers must consider the spent resources as an investment.  A resolved suit is a lesson demanding greater awareness and better protocols to head-off trouble next time before it goes full-Perry Mason; and
  • … and finally, lawyers are not management, we are advocates (fancy word for salespeople).  Our clients are the decisionmakers; we can do no more than provide our best possible guidance.

45 years of this and counting?  Making a living by such contention is an acquired taste to be sure, only navigated by some attempted informality on occasion.  Still looking for that first judge-authored Yelp review, hopefully not too ungenerous.

And so, we work.

Tim Bowles
March 22, 2024

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