Book review by Geoff Hamby
Originally published in the May 2020 issue of Trial News, the monthly newspaper of the Washington State Association for Justice.
Running With The Bulls is a book intended to teach trial lawyers how to maximize possible settlements. In the modern world of a trial lawyer, 99% of cases will settle before going in front of a jury. In times past, lawyers would try upwards of 100 jury trials per year. Now, it’s not uncommon for a firm that handles a smaller number of cases to not see a jury at all during a year. Because of that, it is very important that we are able to be successful in these cases that settle and get the maximum amount possible for our clients. This book takes decades of wisdom on how to do just that and boils it down to a single book. There are many things about this book that could help any trial lawyer. In the interest of space, I have focused this report on three things that stuck out the most to me.
The first thing I learned was a reminder of the correct perspective to have on cases and the benefits of settling instead of going to trial. While we have many tractor trailer cases or crane collapse cases, each of our clients only have one; theirs. Their “case” is their life. Just because we think we can win a case in front of a jury does not mean that’s what’s in the best interest of the client. Getting in front of a jury means years of litigation, answering personal questions to strangers, getting videotaped at a deposition, watching people argue over your life, a mediation where your injuries and pain are talked about with cold numbers, uncertainty of whether a jury will like you, and a whole list of other potential issues for our clients. This is fun for us, this is not fun for them. They do not enjoy being part of a lawsuit in any way, shape, or form. If we can reach an appropriate settlement that values their injuries and what they’ve gone through appropriately, all while saving them from these issues, then we have succeeded in representing them. On a personal level, I need to do a better job of remembering that.
I also learned from Running With The Bulls to always assume we are being lied to. One of the stories that the author told in the book was about his time as an insurance defense lawyer. He said that he was told to lie about everything from the amount of coverage available, to what they were authorized to offer, to what documents they had in their possession. All of this was seen as “negotiating” and playing the game. At Bailey & Oliver, we do not do this. We are upfront an honest in our litigation practices and negotiations. Because of that, it is sometimes difficult to remember that many people are not this way. Oftentimes, there’s no single person making a decision to “lie” on the other side, it is just part of the insurance culture. We need to be extra vigilant in the cases we handle to make sure we independently verify everything that we can in order to make sure the truth wins out in the end.
Finally, I learned a lot from the templates included in this book. The authors gave outlines of their demand letters, checklists for mediations, and all sorts of other templates and tools that can be immediately used in our cases. One thing that I will do for sure is go through the spoliation letter they provided for trucking cases and make sure that our current letter we send out contains everything they mention as well. I always appreciate and enjoy when a book provides tools like this and it usually means I’ll be going back to it repeatedly in the future.
Running With The Bulls is a great book that has helped me change the way I view settling cases. Settling is not the same as “giving up” or even “compromising.” Sometimes, settling is even better for our client than going to trial. While our firm is always ready to present our clients’ cases to a jury, we must be the best we can be at the settling aspect of cases as well.
Geoff Hamby is a trial attorney at Bailey & Oliver law firm. He specializes in catastrophic injury cases. His recent focus has been on crane collapses and tractor-trailer wrecks. Geoff is the former President of the AAJ’s Republican Trial Lawyers Caucus and an avid golfer.