The Law Firm's Philosophy
The firm's approach blends proactive advice and relentless advocacy to achieve clients' employment-law goals. Our clients are not just a "case" or a "recovery": they are real people, strong but in need of support. We will investigate thoroughly to help clients understand the situation. We will creatively explore the practical and legal options. And, if necessary, we will work together to fight for the best outcome for the client.
Unlike the other pages here, this page is not dedicated to any one subject matter or type of case. This page collects and presents blog posts from Joel Dillard about his basic philosophy toward the practice of law. We hope this sheds light on the kind of law firm we are, and the level of service you can expect.
Gambler, Soothsayer, Counselor, Warrior
What is a lawyer?
In Kenny Rogers' immortal words, you've got to know when to hold 'em and when to fold 'em. Lawyers live the gambler's reality every day - and not just when they roll the dice on a big contingency fee case. It is remarkable how much like gambling the practice of litigation is, as a few recent experiences really brought home to me.
You've got to know when to fold 'em. Being right is no guarantee. The truth will not protect you. Because it isn't just about the truth - but the proof. And with a half-dozen credible witnesses against you, and no one to stand by you, it matters to no one but God whether you are telling the truth. It may be time to find a way to pack it up and move on, to minimize the damage. Don't pray to the Court - the courts of man know no God - just fold 'em before you lose your shirt. The lawyer must know when to walk away from the table, no matter how deep they are in the hole.
But you've also got to know when to look 'em in the eye and re-raise, even when they make a big bet against you. As I recently had cause to say to someone -
You've got a pocket pair, and they're aces, but if you're looking for me to promise you that you're going to win, there's no way I can do it. You haven't even seen the river yet. That doesn't mean you fold. You've got a great hand - play it! You may get cracked, but when you've got a hand to play you can't let them buy the pot with what may very well be a bluff.
Humankind cannot know the future, but a lawyer has to try. And has to do it after only a few words conversation with a perfect stranger. As Dickens said
every human creature is constituted to be that profound secret and mystery to every other. The lawyer must attempt the superhuman feats of the soothsayer.
When a stranger walks into my office - and every client was a stranger once - you have to feel deep within you what this person is all about. They may tell a good tale, they may win an Oscar for their acting, they may look to have a significant case, and sometimes you've got to say
no thanks because you feel it in your gut that something's not right.
Or maybe they walk in with nothing but a suspicion, a speculation, a guess that they've been done wrong. Maybe they set off all kinds of traditional alarm bells that say
stay away from this one. Maybe they have a long and uneven litigation history. You take the client anyway, because you just feel it. (My biggest settlement to date had its origins in an initial interview like this.)
And at trial this process repeats with every single juror: after only the slightest few questions in voir dire, you must choose whether to put your client's livelihood in their hands.
Sometimes a client will start to get emotional, and feel compelled to apologize for it. I say
don't apologize, this is what I'm here for. There is a reason they call a lawyer a counselor at law. And it isn't just to listen to the client. It is necessary to understand the client's psychic state to know how to serve the client's true best interests.
This is particularly true in a field - like employment law - where emotions run so high. Like family law and divorce, losing a job can be one of the great traumas of life. Add into the calculation mental or psychological disabilities in ADA, Rehab Act, or FMLA cases, and it can make for quite a potent mix.
Sometimes the gambler has to take a back seat to the counselor: the right gamble may be to play the hand, but the right decision for the client is to settle.
And sometimes the counselor is needed to help the gambler survive. No matter how wronged the client may feel, the counselor is the one who helps the client find a way to do what is in their best interest, and let go.
What more is there to say? This is what everyone imagines the lawyer to be - at least if you judge by lawyer's TV ads.
And it is often true. When the cards are all down on the table, when you've read the tea leaves, when you've confronted the internal conflict... you go to war. It may mean shouting down repeated and improper speaking objections, it may mean deposing the company president armed with a long and embarrassing list of his
inconsistencies, or filing a motion for well-deserved sanctions, or a devastating cross-motion for summary judgment. A jury trial is like a war from start to finish, with a host of complex tactical difficulties worthy of Sun Tzu, and sometimes the only way to win is to see it to the end and achieve a decisive victory on the field of battle. This is often the most satisfying part of the job.
Good Help is Hard to Find
It is extremely hard to judge the skill set of a stranger - or even a friend, if you have not worked with him before. There are those who do just enough to get by, and those who are motivated to be the very best. Whether it is hiring an employee, retaining a lawyer, or finding the right place to get a haircut, the difference between
good and merely
good enough is subtle.
And yet a wide gulf separates the results these two types of people get. The drive to be constantly improving, and the curiosity to be always seeking out opportunities for growth - these are the things that set a person apart.
And they are particularly important in a lawyer, whose work is such a complex mixture of practical and intellectual enterprise.
Experience is not a sum of years; a person who seeks out challenges - and learns from them - can pack more meaningful
experience into three years of practice than an incurious person can accumulate over thirty years.
My personal belief is that no amount of hard work and determination can replace the intrinsic motivation of a genuine curiosity. Curiosity makes a hard research problem into a journey of discovery; it makes a dry legal brief into a work of art; it transforms every task into an opportunity for exploration. A person who works out of curiosity, who works in order to learn, will naturally and organically continue to improve.
I call it
the school of litigation, and it is what makes my work such a joy, day in and day out.
When I read this last night, I knew that I would have to share it. It spoke deeply to me and my work. And so, without further preface, here is Milton's english verse rendition of Psalm 82 (with notes and italics omitted).
God in the great assembly stands
Of kings and lordly states,
Among the gods on both his hands
He judges and debates.
How long will ye pervert the right
With judgment false and wrong,
Favoring the wicked by your might,
Who thence grow bold and strong?
Regard the weak and fatherless
Despatch the poor man's cause,
And raise the man in deep distress
By just and equal laws.
Defend the poor and desolate
And rescue from the hands
Of wicked men the low estate
Of him that help demands
They known not nor will understand
In darkness they walk on;
The earth's foundations are all moved
And out of order gone.
I said that ye were gods, yea all
The sons of God most high,
But ye shall die like men, and fall
As other princes die
Rise God, judge thou the earth in might
This wicked earth redress
For thou art he who shalt by right
The nations all possess.
Pursuant to MRPC 7.4(a)(2)
FREE BACKGROUND INFORMATION AVAILABLE UPON REQUEST
This site is for general information only, and creates no attorney-client relationship. Sending inquiries to the firm does not create an attorney-client relationship.
To get legal advice about an employment law, labor law, federal employee law, whistleblower protection, labor unions, worker cooperatives, immigration, discrimination, harassment, wrongful termination, severance, or any related question, you must first have a conflicts check by the firm. We represent exclusively workers, worker cooperatives and unions, but we still must check for potential conflicts of interest, for example, between a supervisor and employee.
First provide the firm with your name, and the name of the person you are making claims against - and no other information. This allows the firm to check for such conflicts of interest. Until you receive confirmation from an attorney that there is NO CONFLICT, none of the information you provide will be considered confidential. Do NOT provide any confidential information before we have asked you to do so.
Once we have confirmed there is no conflict, you may discuss your matter with the attorney in a little more detail, and, if requested, make an appointment. If at your appointment the firm accepts you as a client in writing, then the attorney will be able to provide you with employment law advice.