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It’s The Little Things That Count

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December 18, 2021 Firm News

Cliff Shaw had the right idea when he said, “It’s the little things that count. Hundreds  of ’em.” When a lawyer is preparing a client for deposition- if done correctly- this quote will help the jury start to understand the true loss of a client.

The Big Picture vs. The Little Details

We’re not trying to minimalize the larger effects caused by an accident, but someone else will. It’s easier to take a look at the big losses, obvious pain, and how a loss lives on the outside. However, it can sometimes be harder to share the immensity of those values with a group of strangers. Particularly when those values or larger effects will be tried and evaluated to be diminished into irrelevance.

For example, say Joe argues a large effect of not being able to ski at all or as frequently as before his accident. The frequency is diminished into a few days a month after revealing typical ski conditions and lifestyle schedules, and the hobby is diminished into something else to physically substitute the desire. Joe’s choice is to ski or not to ski, with seemingly minimal effects on anybody else but himself and the fear of missing out.

What people forget is that the client’s life doesn’t stop on the outside- it lives on the inside. The client may still be active, but they’re having to make small choices with rippled effects every day or every few hours. These small choices consist of which price to pay, whether the cost is the moment or when the cost snowballs into later effects. This is where the judgment of quality in a client’s life comes into play; paying the price of physical pain, or sacrificing the experience of actually doing it.

For example, Joe also states that his young son, Ben, likes to be picked up. Joe’s choices on the outside are to pick Ben up and feel the twinge in his back, or not pick him up. What Joe might not realize is the internal struggle of many more choices. When Ben asks to be picked up, is he willing to twinge his back and be sore for the next few days in exchange for Ben’s smile and joyful laugh, or say no to Ben raising his arms at Joe? If this happens every time, will Ben stop asking for Joe’s affection or attention? Will this affect their relationship down the road, or will Joe’s back get worse over time as he continues to pick Ben up?

Looking Inward

A good lawyer will prepare for ways to interpret all of those “little” moments as a big deal. The objective is to communicate the magnitude and value of what was taken. So, how do you get there? Chances are, the client won’t talk about those moments because either they don’t want to focus on all of those small choices where neither options are ideal (which feels depressing and demeaning), or they’re unaware of these inconveniences because it has become second nature and unrecognizable unless someone points it out for them.

This is where a good lawyer won’t just be a client’s lawyer, but can also be their counselor. Keep in mind the fact that all the little things matter. Nobody wants to talk about these tough choices, let alone reflect on them more than they have to. Nevertheless, you must still look into the darkness to do your job and guide your client into doing the same so that justice may be served.

How To Find The Little Things

Give your clients a homework assignment, and all the tools they need for success. Their assignment will be to write down every inconvenience they encounter throughout their day. Provide them with a notebook and a pen that is convenient enough for them to have it on them at all times. For their assignment, help them understand what you’re looking for by sharing some examples to model after:

  • Every time there’s even a slight annoying flicker of pain, write it down.
  • Every time they miss how their life was before, write it down.
  • Every time they think,” What if…” write it down.
  • Every time they don’t do something or do something and still pay the price, write it down.

After a certain timeline is assigned, you comb through it. Remember, this is not an easy task for your client. They won’t want to focus on it longer than they need to. But through their log, you’ll know how to answer those life-altering questions in the trial, and your client will be able to list all of those small life changes in a deposition.

The jury wants to know the daily effects of the accident. Their pain or annoyances when checking their blind spot while driving, twinges when picking up their children, and other life changes they record in their log will resonate deeper than just whether or not they can ski anymore.

“Sometimes,” said Pooh,” the smallest things take up the most room in your heart.”

Don’t miss any opportunities to have your client educate the jury. Don’t let the defense counsel shrink the enormity of what was taken from your client. True loss is found in the little things, and that will get the point across. The daily routine is where the true impact of human life lies.