I love noir fiction. And there are few better than Doug J. Swanson, whose protagonist is Dallas private investigator Jack Flippo. Listen to this from his novel 96 Tears:
Jack thought about big, nasty surprises, how they shouldn't happen. Not if you asked all the right questions, not if you paid attention. You only had to be alert for the signs: the spot on the skin, the smoke on the wind, the noise at the window, the unreturned kiss. See it coming. That was the trick.
Lawyers are people who need to see it coming whether "it" is a sticky suit, a bad witness, a shady client, or a back-stabbing colleague. Here are 10 warning signs to help you do just that.
1. "Isn't it obvious?"
I hear this from managers when a company refuses to hire a disabled applicant, as in, "Isn't it obvious that a man with one arm can't do this job?" The manager unwisely forecloses the inquiry required by the Americans With Disabilities Act: An employer must determine if the employee can perform the essential functions of the job, with or without a reasonable accommodation.
Another example is when a supervisor says, "Isn't it obvious that we don't want to hire a convicted felon for this job?" That person unwisely ignores the EEOC's new emphasis that automatic exclusion of an applicant with a criminal record may be a proxy for race discrimination.
2. "This is a no-lose case with a guaranteed two-comma verdict."
Listen to this quotation from Proverbs 28:20: "[H]e that maketh haste to be rich shall not be innocent." Isn't that the truth?
From the fictional Gordon Gekko to the all-too-real Bernie Madoff, those who greedily grasp after riches may be slow to reveal their lack of integrity. They show their true character only under careful attention and scrutiny. The best antidote: Be a person of character. As W.C. Fields wisely remarked, "You can't cheat an honest man."
3. "We must decide today!"
Here is the greatest enemy of an integrity-based decision: time pressure. "Fire the employee now!" "We have to get this order of widgets out by 5 p.m. no ifs, ands or buts."
To paraphrase H.L. Mencken, decisions made under unnecessary time pressures usually are "swift, sure, and wrong." When under pressure to do something "now," the wise attorney should ask the client, "If we had 10 times as much time to make this decision, would it be the same decision?"
4. "That's the other side's problem."
I hear this from time to time, and I bet many lawyers do. These two statements always are cause to take a timeout: