Saturday, January 3, 2009

Wins and Losses

A potential client asked me last week what my win/loss record was. I had to admit that I didn't really know. I also had to ask what he meant by wins and losses.

Law isn't exactly like the football game I am watching while I write this. It isn't a matter of who is ahead on points when time expires. What is a win and what is a loss is different for different matters.

Take, for example, the case I tried in Rutherford County a few months ago. My client was charged with criminal contempt for failure to pay child support. He was over $20,000.00 in arrears. There was no doubt that he owed the money, no doubt about the amount. The only issue was ability to pay.

Prior to trial, I offered to settle the case by agreeing to the amount and setting up a payment schedule. The agreement would have provided that a jail sentence would kick in should he miss a single payment (which was calculated as enough to pay the current amount due as well as an additional sum to reduce the arrears). The other side refused the offer and we tried the case.

The judge ruled that the arrearage was the amount of our offer, found him in contempt, imposed a jail sentence then suspended the sentence upon condition that he begin making payments. The amount of the payment was nearly identical to my offer.

Was this a win or a loss? You could look at it either way. It was a win because the result was good for the client. He avoided jail and was given time to get his act together and pay the support. It was a loss because the client was, technically, found guilty of criminal contempt.

Most cases I have handled fall into this category. You can look at them as wins because the results are good. You could look at them as losses because, technically, the other side prevails on its issue.

I tend to count cases like the one above as wins. It is the result for the client that matters, not the technicality of the judge's ruling.


No comments: