FINDING THE FLOW IN EVERY CASE, BIG OR SMALL
I was recently reminded of a conversation I had with two attorneys near the beginning of my career as a baby jury consultant. I was working with a senior partner and an associate on a witness preparation for trial for a small matter. During some down time, the associate asked me about what we did, as we apparently had novelty value for him. I explained that we were a full service trial consulting firm, described mock trials, shadow jury projects, trial monitoring engagements, and everything else. He asked how I balanced all those big things with “little cases like this,” to which I responded, “Each case is as important as another.” The senior partner said, “Exactly.” It was a great message for the young attorney and myself to receive. I’m not sure I fully understood the implications at the time, but it is an important principle to remind ourselves of regularly. In the pursuit of the billable hour it is critical that we focus on what makes our work meaningful. As trial consultants working with lawyers and corporate counsel, we get to engage in work that is fun, challenging, creative, and meaningful, regardless of the case size or level of engagement. Dr. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi – seriously impressive name – wrote a book called Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience about being in the experience of the moment, in the groove, or in the zone. It is, at its core, a book about enjoying what you do. This is the ideal way to look at work, and as consultants, counselors, or litigators we get to participate in amazing work. From a trial consultant’s perspective, finding the flow is about crafting creative solutions to challenging situations: developing inventive strategy over constraints. Each witness preparation, each jury selection, each trial or litigation strategy meeting is a process of intellectual stimulation, testing ideas and evaluating action and choices in light of constraints. The big cases certainly have problems, complexities, and constraints, but every case has its own unique eccentricities and particularities. These call for a flow of problem solving and solutions to bring about the best results possible for the client. Finding the flow in our litigation strategy and trial advocacy efforts is the key. It is finding, maintaining, and always engaging this attitude in our work on each and every case that can make the work fun, meaningful, and successful, It’s also the best way to make our efforts successful from a business standpoint. It is not the billable hour end game, but being in the moment with strategy work that produces the best work product, strategy advice, and the execution of the advocacy that will make the most difference in the quest for enjoyable work and business success. In some ways this blog is a reflection and reminder to myself after nearly 15 years in the jury consulting field, and in some ways a message to other consultants and lawyers to remind ourselves of the interesting and exciting work we get to do each and every day. We all, myself included, can too easily take that for granted. A simple flick of the switch – a change of attitude – can make all the difference when diving into a new case, no matter its size. Ultimately from the point of view of the client, every case they have is significant in size, thus they should be for us.