Problem Solving

Many people like puzzles. They become expert in crosswords or sudoku or similar recreations, which can be a pleasant way to spend time, but real life legal puzzles are not an entertainment; for those clients caught in the midst of a legal puzzle they endure great stress. Most people who find themselves being sued or having to sue never, when they started on a course of business or a relationship, envisaged that it would end in tears. They suddenly, and these things often happen suddenly, discover that their life’s work is at risk, and the stress of many thousands of hours being wasted.

Every law case has two elements of a puzzle; the first is that it can be hard to establish the facts. There is no continuous video of life so we must rely on unreliable memory, sometimes coloured by bias: once you have established the facts, the truth, you have to apply the myriad and sometimes obscure laws and rules of procedure to achieve the desired outcome.

Contrary to popular belief, lawyers do like the truth. It makes their work easier. If a lawyer lies it is invariably because his or her client has told a lie, or more likely a half truth, which the lawyer is merely repeating and amplifying. So much legal expense and energy must be spent upon deciding what is true, what is likely to be true and what is unlikely to be true before the lawyer can get to grips with the law of the case.

Before a lawyer can use forensic skill he or she must first solve the first part of the puzzle – establishing what the facts are likely to be.

Having done that, we must turn to the second part of the puzzle; we reach for our dusty tomes (or rather our on line statements of law, cases and statutes) and present our solution of the puzzle to the opponent and if they cannot see the sense of a settlement, then to the court.

I suppose ultimately lawyers can only advise the ways to solve problems. The final decision rests with the client, whose assets and work is at risk.

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