In 1L, a wise, legal writing adjunct professor gave me some excellent advice: “Don’t Let The Perfect Get In The Way Of The Good.” What he meant, of course, is writer’s block is most often a fear, an internal struggle to create the “perfect” argument, the telling analogy. That mindset, he preached, inhibits the flow of what ought to be said. “Write, write–and then revise, revise, refine and refine again.” The result, often, may not be perfect, but it will get the job done. I took that advice to heart. And so, when my children complained about the difficulty of school essays, I would tell them: “Just do a ‘brain dump’ and see what comes out. Then set it aside for a piece and return to the essay to revise and refine–and you’ll be surprised by what appears on the page.”
In Claims and Litigation all too often the Perfect does indeed get in the way of the Good. In fact, sports and what we do are closely analogous. Why do you think top performing athletes supplement coaches with sports psychologists? Golfer Jordan Spieth now works with Michael Phelps, who has enough Olympic gold around his neck to stoop with its weight (23 gold). I could go on, with sport analogies, ranging from swinging a club to competitive swimming. A while ago, I read a book by Bob Rotella, a renowned sports psychologist, styled Golf Is Not a Game of Perfect. True, Rotella said, you could try to hit the “perfect” shot, say, a hook around a tree from the high rough. But, he said, “What are the probabilities of success?” Isn’t it smarter to play a safer shot into the fairway, he suggested, and hope for a good wedge into the green and a one putt par. Playing for Perfect might well take you out of tournament contention.
Outcomes in Claims and Law often turn on percentage plays. So, why get hung-up on the Perfect when the Good, most often, is what makes the difference between failure and acceptable loss ratios and happy clients?
A defense verdict, summary judgment awards and favorable DJ rulings are Perfect outcomes. But, like Rotella, our clients invariably ask us to “handicap” or assess the percentage of that Perfect outcome. I’ve never liked giving percentages. But discipline in the arena of litigation, just as discipline on the playing field, requires an honest assessment; it’s a matter of balancing risk versus potential reward.
Strive for the Perfect but don’t let it lead you to foolish decisions about managing risks in claims and litigated matters. And that’s it for this This and That. If you have thoughts on how best to balance the Perfect versus the Good, please email or call Dennis.