Serving the Client Rather than Individual Vanity
In my last post, I shared a bit about an important case I’d worked on, regarding a client who was suffering from mesothelioma.
The case was set to begin on a Monday. The Friday morning prior, we received an offer to settle for a little over $1 million.
When I initially shared the offer with Vinny, he had absolutely no interest in accepting what I considered to be a paltry amount. He also worried that there wasn’t enough money in the settlement for me. I assured him that he should not be concerned about me—I had lots of other cases, and the decision had to be his. I firmly believed we had a very good chance of getting at least $10 million. I didn’t think Vinny would settle. I felt he’d go all the way. I was fired up to win for him and it would have been a very big verdict.
I liked Vinny from the start. He was a hell of a nice man, and someone I still think of as a dream client for many reasons. It appeared as though we were on the same page until my phone rang two hours later. It was Vinny. He and his wife had talked it over and decided to settle for the million-plus dollars that was on the table. He talked about the little addition he wanted to build on their house and then told me all about their grandchildren. After discussing it with his wife, he said he could rest a lot easier knowing the money would keep her comfortable for the rest of her life.
“I know I won’t be around to do that, Jim,” he solemnly said.
When I heard that, I knew we were done. I didn’t even try to talk him out of his decision or sway him the other way.
I called the attorneys for W. R. Grace and told them there would be no trial—the case was over. They knew they got off easy, and so did I. I sat alone in my office feeling very down, because at the time I thought this was a dream case for me and now it wasn’t going to happen.
I was absorbed in my own self pity and vanity.
A few hours later, my phone rang again. It was Vinny. He was crying this time. Before I could ask if he had changed his mind, he told me what a difference I’d made in their lives. The money would change everything for them during the limited time he had left.
“I’m at peace, Jim,” he said.
And in my heart and soul, I could feel that he was.
It was that exact moment when I realized how wrong I’d been in my assessment of this case. It wasn’t about me. It was about Vinny and his family. Giving them peace was exactly what my job is all about.
Each case I take is someone else’s dispute. It’s my temporary battle to fight on their behalf, but in the end, it’s their quarrel—not mine. It’s their monkey, their circus. I am merely the ringleader.
A massive verdict is more about ego than anything else. My job is to get the best possible results for my clients. It’s about their happiness. Not my vanity.
That’s it. Nothing more; nothing less.
Getting that last call from Vinny gave me more satisfaction than being awarded a large sum of money on their behalf ever would have. I get a high from helping people. You could say it’s my drug of choice. There’s no better or more infectious feeling than knowing people are happy because you helped them out of their crisis. This case greatly influenced my way of thinking and how I moved forward in my career.
And what a roller coaster it has been.
In my next post, I will continue to share a bit about my background, to give you a sense of how I arrived at the point where I considered accepting the case of the Castillo family, who wanted me to represent them against DuPont – to fight for justice on behalf of their son Johnny, who had been born blind as a result of his mother’s exposure to a toxic DuPont fungicide when she was pregnant.
You’ll find much more about my background, my inspirations and my legal ideas in my book, Blindsided, from which this post is drawn. I’d love to hear your thoughts on this and other blogs in the series. Thank you for sharing.