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Reflections Without Mirrors By Louis Nizer (Doubleday, 469 pages, 1978) The distinguishing characteristic common to those who achieve success seems to be energy. This was the view of Louis Nizer (1902-94), the successful New York trial lawyer with a career which stretched from the 1930s through to the 1980s. Nizer made this comment in his 1978 memoir Reflections Without Mirrors: “Energy is all attractive. It connotes sexual power, protective power, and security. I have sought common characteristics among people of great accomplishment. There is only one common denominator � energy. Whether it be the business tycoon, the great painter, or dramatist, the performer, the professional man, the political leader, they are as different in personality as infinite variations of color and form in nature’s creations � except one. They are alike in their boundless energy. “ The energy he speaks of is not the physical kind of a marathon runner. It is the energy to work for long periods without rest. It is the energy of a politician who nags his friends for campaign money, who goes out every night making speeches and shaking hands. It is the energy required to stay up and watch the returns produce a stunning loss and then start all over again. It is the energy required to prepare and try lawsuits. Someone gave me a copy of Nizer’s book when it was republished in 1990. I did not open it until a month ago when I came across it under a pile of old books. I think the reason I did not read it is that I did not have the energy to take on a 468-page recitation of Nizer’s own boundless energy combined with a monotonous recitation of his courtroom successes. The passage of 13 years has made the book less threatening, and I decided to read it. In the book, Mr. Nizer gives his formula for success: I.Q. (Intelligence Quotient) + W.Q. 2 (Work Quotient squared) = S (Success). Nizer leaves out luck. “Yes, there is such a thing as luck in trial law, but it only comes at 3 o’clock in the morning where you’ll find me in the library looking for luck.” When he speaks of the cases he tried and won, he preaches thorough preparation. I am sure he was well-prepared in each case, but it must be kept in mind that many of the decisive elements that go into the winning and losing of important litigation have nothing to do with preparation or forensic skill. Things occur that are never discussed, but which contribute to the result: a chance remark overheard, a sudden change in the attitude of a witness, an unexpected grant of a continuance. Nizer does make a point about trials that rings true: “In every trial there is a moment, sometimes many, when sheer will must see us through. Often it turns out to be a psychological rather than factual crisis, because every new development leads us by the very rule of probability to further facts which may reconcile it with the original plan. It is unlikely that a long train of events which we know about would have taken place if there was a preceding contradiction. Usually, what has happened is that a missing segment in the mosaic has turned up, and because the segment is not complete, it appears to be inconsistent with the rest of the structure. It becomes our duty to uncover the rest of the missing data so that the mosaic may be complete, and present a fuller picture of the truth as originally conceived. Absent the determination to see it through, the unanticipated revelations can be fatal. There is a rush to surrender, usually in the form of settlement � that graceful disguise of defeat. I have seen many sacrificial settlements made because resistance and persistence had been unnecessarily undermined. So the rule should be, ‘In smooth sailing keep a careful watch of the horizon; in a gale keep a careful watch of your own head. ‘ “ The case that brought him the most publicity involved his client John Henry Faulk, a radio and television personality. Nizer brought a libel suit against AWARE, an anti-communist group that supplied background information to the sponsors of the performers in the 1950s. AWARE branded Faulk a communist. He lost his job. In 1962, a jury awarded Faulk $3.5 million, the largest libel verdict as of that time. The highly publicized trial was converted into a movie; George C. Scott played Nizer. Nizer gives his thoughts on how to persuade a jury. He recommends a two-layered structure. There must be a solid foundation of fact topped by an emotional appeal. Fact or emotion alone does not do it. I have heard this analysis from other lawyers. It is said that there are poets and accountants on every jury. The emotional appeal connects with the poets, but the poets on the panel have no staying power during the deliberations. There must be some arithmetic, some numbers included to engage those with staying power, the accountants. Nizer gives character sketches of some of his famous clients, including business tycoons. It is his belief that every tycoon gives complete dedication to obtaining what he wants. He gives as an illustration the career of Armand Hammer, whom he admired. He sketches Hammer’s career of acquisition of wealth and power. Nizer represented Hammer when he got himself in trouble during Watergate because of his political contributions. Nizer’s admiration for Hammer was misplaced. The biographies of Hammer (other than the biography Hammer paid for) paint a picture of a man who would let nothing stand in the way of his getting what he wanted, and in the process, he ruined the lives of some of those closest to him. One need not be judgmental about Nizer’s praise of Hammer. A client who flatters a lawyer (as Hammer flattered Nizer) disarms the lawyer. If you were to find a copy of Nizer’s memoir in a used book store, I would recommend you buy it. Once you discount the self-promotion, there remains much to be learned about the practice of law in its pages. Jacob A. Stein is a founding partner of Stein, Mitchell & Mezines. He is past president of the D.C. Bar and of the Bar Association of the District of Columbia. His books include Legal Spectator & More. This is the first installment in an occasional series that will revisit older or overlooked books worthy of comment.

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