BY RON SANDGRUND
Whether by nature or nurture, law school does a great job of graduating a lot of detail-oriented human beings. As a law grad myself, with a reputation even among other lawyers for being detail-oriented, I certainly could serve as the poster child for this affliction. Still, I was not jealous when one of my friends got a birthday T-shirt as a new associate from his legal assistant that read, "Is Anal Retentive Hyphenated?" While I proudly own my X-Man® ability to get into the weeds of insurance policy construction and drafting non-pattern jury instructions, I also knew that for years this superpower hid a great weakness: my inability to see the forest for the trees.
What do I mean? Simple. For a long time, I outlined multi-page cross-examinations, annotated with supporting evidentiary rules guaranteeing the testimony's admission, cross-annotated with exhibit and deposition cites standing at the ready for impeachment. Eventually, however, I realized that during my most effective cross-examinations, I had pushed my notes aside. Similarly, during most of my 35+ years practicing law, I refused to "network," convinced that becoming an expert in the law, and backing it up with successful results, easily trumped hobnobbing with folks I didn't know talking about stuff I didn't care about. Only later did I recognize that lawyers were, by and large, interesting people, and that simply spending time with them was valuable—and fun. In short, I began to understand that while blinders may serve a racehorse well by keeping the focus on the finish line, it never hurts to look around and see what the other racehorses are doing, take in the cheering crowd, and smell the paddock's flowers.
Most important, I learned that taking off the blinders made me a better attorney, a better law partner, a better family member, and a better human being. I learned the value of viewing clients (including corporate representatives) as people, their lawsuits as something that had gone horribly wrong in their lives, and resolution of those lawsuits as a...