What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received?

Published in 2011 North Carolina Super Lawyers — February 2011

“I think the best piece of advice I ever received with regard to the practice of law was to understand that if you can’t see your case through your opponents’ eyes, you’re not negotiating. You’re merely dictating terms. Other attorneys taught me that early on in my career and then experience has absolutely confirmed the truth of it.”

Howard L. Gum, family law attorney, partner at Gum, Hillier & McCroskey

 

“One is, don’t burn your bridges. That flows from the idea that, at least where I practice law, you often have cases against the same attorneys time and again, or in front of the same judges time and again. And also, to treat opposing counsel and other people involved in the case with great professionalism: a) because it’s the right thing to do, and b) because I think it sets the stage for future interactions with those same people.

“[My father is] the one who—as fathers will do on no uncertain terms—told me very early on in my career, do not burn your bridges. Because you will always be known by the manner in which you treat people and you want your reputation to be stellar. Once your reputation is damaged, it’s hard to get back.”

Patricia L. Holland, employment litigator, partner at Jackson Lewis

 

“I think the best piece of advice I ever received from a mentor was to be kind and courteous to a witness unless you can justify being different. My mentor [Bob Measle] told me [this] years and years ago. I have certainly learned that it works and he’s right. There’s a time to be nice and there’s a time not to be nice. But most times, juries want you to be nice. Sometimes they want you to be somebody else, but that’s not the everyday experience.

“The second piece of advice that he gave me is if you are gathering documents, be sure and read them. I think attorneys get so caught up in paper wars, they get focused on gathering and fail to read everything they gather. I think that is a regular mistake that attorneys make. If it’s worth asking for, you must think there’s something in it that you need to know. I do a lot of work in medical records and we get stacks and stacks of records, but if you don’t read them, there’s so many pearls in there that you just miss.”

Tom Harris, professional liability defense litigator, partner at Harris, Creech, Ward & Blackerby

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