See abstract below. Full transcript available for download here.
Recently, Stanley Bernstein presented a Thought Leadership Spotlight to an audience of in-house general counsels. The goal of his speech was to pack thirty years worth of experience into a twenty-minute speech. Realizing that most of his audience spent most of their time as defendants rather than plantiffs, Bernstein hoped to prepare the lawyers in attendance for the “one time out of a hundred” that they might have to think outside the box and stand on the other side of the courtroom. Never harboring any delusions about the drastic differences in the legal processes involved in such a change. Neatly phrasing a summary of those differences, Bernstein says, “Our goal is to obtain results. It’s not to delay, it’s not to obfuscate, it’s not to vex, harass, annoy, uncover the truth. Our goal is to get results. I am proud to say we define results as money.”
Bernstein describes the ultimate goal of his particular legal process as taking money “from their side of the table and moving it to our side.” He began to fulfill his promise to deliver the secrets of his trade by utilizing combative tones: “Every decision is made with the singular goal of the other side being the enemy and our side being a team and a partnership.” Bernstein went on to describe a distinct advantage held by plaintiffs over defendants in that the plaintiffs are hard at work before the defendant ever gets sued. By the time the defendants are even aware that a case has been brought against them, according to Bernstein, his firm and firms like it have already spoken to “[the defendant’s] people” and gathered an immense amount of information.
Often, Bernstein addressed his audience collectively as defendants in order to make his point. He was also perfectly willing to impart valuable advice on a room full of men and women who could easily be sitting, as his enemy, across the negotiating table in the future: “You start talking to your former employees who you think are friendly to you. They’re generally not. The other guy’s former employees generally are.”
“You have to keep your eye on the ball, and the ball is money. I’m sorry to say it, but it’s money,” said Bernstein, and the secret to getting that money, for a plaintiff, is to keep focused on achieving a trial date. This does not necessarily mean that there must be a trial, he continues, noting that sometimes the mere looming presence of a trial is enough for a settlement.
Another important advantage held by plaintiffs is their frequent ability to assign a particular theme or zeitgeist to a trial and continue to play on the importance of that zeitgeist: “You keep the theme simple and you repeat that theme in every brief, every argument, every time you see the judge. ‘This is the case about X.’”
Experience as a plaintiff suing corporations is apparently enough to make a lawyer fearless. “We’ve sued them all,” Bernstein says, after divulging some of the types of companies he’s been involved in suing, from investment banks to multi-nationals. Where he derives satisfaction from his particular legal niche, though, is in the drastic differences to more traditional legal sectors. The way plaintiff’s lawyers litigate, bill, and behave differently, trying to enter into as much of a partnership as possible with their clients.