Hurry Up and Wait
The waiting is the hardest part
Every day you see one more card
You take it on faith, you take it to the heart
The waiting is the hardest part
Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
Contrary to popular myth, this classic Tom Petty song was not written about attorneys, but you cannot blame litigators for often feeling that the song applies to them. A litigator spends hours preparing for an important hearing or trial, has dreams (or nightmares) of presenting his argument to the court. Then the day finally comes, and the lawyer gets in his car 20 minutes early to account for traffic, only to find out that traffic is running 25 minutes behind. The adrenaline is kicking in. He rushes to the courtroom just as the clock strikes the scheduled start time and then…
He waits. And waits. And sometimes he waits some more.
Occasionally, “the waiting” is an unavoidable for an attorney and his client. Court dockets are increasingly crowded, and they do the best they can to manage the docket in as efficient a manner as possible, but no one can accurately predict how long every trial or hearing will take. The parties and the courts use estimates as best they can, but judges are going to allow litigants a full opportunity to have their cases and issues heard, as they should. Sometimes, when a preceding hearing or trial goes longer than expected, those who are next in line face insufferable delays that often tie his stomach in knots. Clients are frustrated because they have to pay their attorneys to wait while another matter wraps up, but it is usually unavoidable, and often the attorney can use that time constructively for additional preparation.
I write about this because I recently had one of those “hurry up and wait” moments before a hearing. This hearing was not contentious in nature, and the court scheduled us in on short notice, so there wasn’t much complaining by the attorneys that we had to wait for about an hour until the judge could hear our issue. However, we were jointly requesting the Order in question, and I believed that I was fully prepared for the questions that the judge may have. In this situation, further review of materials that I already knew inside and out did not seem to be the best way to utilize my time as the waiting continued. The other attorneys must have felt the same way, because we decided to spend our time in conversation. Having been civil and professional to each other throughout the litigation, it was not uncommon for us to have friendly discussions, but on this day we found ourselves talking about the law, and particularly insurance. The conversation reinforced my belief that you can gain valuable insight by talking to “the other side” and getting a different perspective. We talked about issues important to both plaintiffs and defendants, such as what types of insurance people should have, how much they have, and why it is so common that people do not have the insurance coverage that they should. It is interesting that both sides agreed that most people should have more coverage than they do and it would benefit both the insured and the insurance company, which got me thinking that a lot of insurance agents may be opening themselves up to Errors and Omissions claims because they aren’t having the right conversations with their customers. When the time came that the Court was ready to hear our motion, it seemed like only a few minutes had passed because. In the end, although waiting is never ideal, you can often utilize that time in a constructive manner that may better enable your to counsel your clients down the road.