It Takes Two: Why Giving Second Chances At Law Firms & In Law Leads To Successes

They say persistence pays off. But, for lawyers, sometimes it doesn’t feel that way. Before you get discouraged, take a look at some examples of stalwart successes.

Before lawyers even see a courtroom, law students must learn to be tenacious. The infamous bar exam is the best example of rewarding second (and third of fourth) chances (via ATL).

Hillary Clinton, John F. Kennedy, Jr., and Emily Pataki (daughter of New York Governor Pataki) each failed the bar exam at least once before they eventually passed. Now that they’ve landed prestigious jobs, they (surely) never look back.

For Jerry Brown, Attorney General of California and former governor of California, it takes two. He did not pass the California bar exam on his first try.

Neither did the former dean of Stanford Law School, Kathleen Sullivan. After failing the California bar exam once, she still picked up the post as dean and became a name partner at one of the nation’s top litigation firms.

One, Paulina Bandy, failed the California bar exam thirteen times before she finally passed it on try #14.

The list goes on (seriously, it’s here).

As a lawyer—or simply as a human being—how many times have you tried and failed at an argument or an action?

Cross-examinations or hostile witnesses, for example, prove difficult. We can’t all simulate Tom Cruise’s questioning from the film, A Few Good Men.

In “Never Give Up On Cross-Examination,” post for Above The Law, John Balestriere explains how important it is to keep going, fight harder, and follow through.

He explains that experienced trial counsel at the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office taught him the Never Give Up rule, as demonstrated by this real exchange during a negligence claim:

Q: When you were driving down the street the light was red, right?

A: There was so much going on, I just, I don’t really . . .

Q: Sir, you were driving down the street, right?

A: I mean, well, we were in the car, and, I mean, I’m not sure what anyone else saw.

Q: Sir, you were in the car, right?

A: I don’t, um, yes.

Q: So you were in the car, right?

A: Yes.

Q: You were driving the car, right?

A: I was in the car, that’s correct.

Q: You were in the car and you were driving the car, right?

A: Um, yes, I was in the driver’s seat, yes.

Q: You were driving the car with your hands on the wheel, right?

A: I’m not sure where my hands were, but . . .

Q: You were in the car in the driver’s seat, right?

A: Yes, uh, yes.

Q: And you were driving the car when sitting in the driver’s seat in the car, right?

A: Yes.

Q: And the light was red as you were driving, right?

A: I, well, I’m not sure what anyone else saw.

Q: I’m talking about you, sir—when you were driving the car down the street you saw that the light was red, right?

A: I did see, yes, I could see.

Q: And you saw while you were driving the car that the light was red, right?

A: Uh, yes. 

Read more here.

Balestriere describes this need to be steadfast in other cases, as well. He says of one difficult depositions and trials:

“I didn’t lose my cool. I declined his multiple invitations to argue with him about what he did mean, or what the context was. I knew what information we needed to win.” 

With that information—and persistence—he did win.

In sum, it turns out that doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results is not, in fact, the definition of insanity after all. It’s the nature of being a lawyer. And it should—and often is—rewarded.

 

-WB

Learn more about the keys to success in The Center For Competitive Management’s Training Resources and Audio Conferences here.

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