Yesterday was GolfDay.  Nothing else to call it.  Despite the conditions, one of the big clubs (which I won’t name for fear of giving away the identity of the people in this story) was holding a competition.  First I overheard my opponent on the train on the way to court on the telephone to one of his friends.
“I know mate, it’s a big one.  Tell me about it.  Look, I’ve got a case at the moment but definitely count me in.  I’m gonna have a chat with my opponent and see if I can’t get rid of it at the door of court…Yeh, yeh, I know.  Another ‘golf settlement’.  Good thing no-one’s done a graph comparing my settlement days to golf tournaments.”

Now you’d think that this would give me the upper hand at court and in normal circumstances it would.  Were it not for the fact that the judge called us into his chambers as soon as we arrived.
“Gentleman.  I’ve been looking at the papers in this case and I am extremely unhappy that this has come anywhere near a courtroom.  It should have settled years ago a car case like this, one side saying one thing, the other side saying another.  Looks like a straightforward fifty-fifty case to me.  But whatever your own views, let me tell you now that unless this case settles, I shall seriously be considering water costs orders against the lawyers after this case has finished for encouraging litigation where none were needed.”

Now if ever there was a code red to kick lawyers into doing what the judge wanted it was the threat of wasted costs against them personally.  Threaten the clients and the amount of damages and it was water off a duck’s back.  By tomorrow they’d be onto the next one.  Like some croupier in a big casino, all they were doing was administering other people’s bets.  Judges know this best of all and so when they really want something they threaten to hit the lawyers where it hurts which is one place and one place only.  Their pockets.
“And don’t start getting into arguing about which side I might blame for this litigation.  In my view you’re both as bad as each other.  In fact, I’m even minded to send these papers off to be reviewed by the disciplinary committees of the Law Society and the Bar Council.”  He added just for good measure.

Actually, there’s another hole in a lawyer’s thick hide and that’s the fear of being hauled in front of his professional body.  This judge was clearly on a mission as he’d hit a double whammy with his first two blows.  He clearly wanted rid of this case and fast.

After we left the court, I went to my client and explained that the judge was encouraging us to settle at fifty-fifty.  This would be an excellent result for us as I’d been expecting to lose the case outright on the evidence.  “But I’ve been fighting this case for over four years now and they’ve never made any offers in the past.  Why would they do so now?”

I could hardly tell him that it was because my opponent was desperate to get to the golf course and the judge was in a bad mood.  Doesn’t exactly give you faith in the system of justice.
“Well, being at court often focuses people’s minds on the potential weaknesses in their own cases, I guess.  Let’s see what they come back with.”

We both then looked over at my opponent on the other side of the room who was clearly having a heated discussion with his own client who looked very unhappy.  At one point the client stormed off in a rage only for my opponent to follow him and continue the conversation.  Eventually, I saw the client nodding reluctantly and then my opponent came over and asked if he could have a word with me.
“Been a bit of a difficult one as you can imagine but I’ve eventually brought him around.  Told him that he could be going home with nothing and a horrendous costs order again st him personally if he wasn’t careful.”

Which just wasn’t true, but, hey, not my business.
“So, I eventually brought him round to the judge’s suggestion.  I think we can settle on fifty-fifty.”

Now this was an absolute gift horse for my client and I really should grabbed the offer immediately.  However, I felt that his desire to play golf may squeeze just a little bit more.
“Look, I know you’ve got the stronger case but my client’s here after four years of worry and he’s ready to have his day in court.  I have talked to him about settlement but the most that he’ll come down to is sixty-forty in his favour.”
“BabyBarista, are you mad?”  He appeared quite angry at my response, no doubt due to the fact that he could see his golf game receding into the distance.
“Sorry.  Sixty-forty or we have a day in front of the judge.”

He looked at me for a while weighing up whether I was bluffing or not.  Now this is the first time that I’d had to put my staring skills into practice.  All came out of a drunken conversation with Claire a few weeks ago about blinking.  Specifically, if you’re going to negotiate well, you can’t afford to blink after a big bluff – kind of the same principle as Krushchev having blinked in the East-West showdown in the early sixties Bay of Pigs crisis.  So we’d since spent many a drunken hour having blinking competitions on the basis that it was actually good training for the bar.  Now, finally, was my moment and after I’d said my bit, I looked him straight in the eye and held my gaze…and held it still.  Not a blink to be seen, although my eyes were starting to water.  Eventually he cracked and blinked first.
“I’ll take instructions,” he said and went back to his client.

Ten minutes later and a sixty-forty settlement was ours and my opponent whisked us back in front of the judge.
“Excellent, gentlemen.  What an eminently sensible course of action, if I may say so.”

He then took a look at his watch.
“And conveniently enough, should be just enough time to make the first tee after lunch.”

It was only at that point that I suddenly took in the various memorabilia which were spread around his room.  Not for him the pictures of old judges.  Instead, it was old cartoons of golfers and the odd photo and trophy.

Suddenly it all became clear.

When I rang my ClichéClanger who was my solicitor once again, he said,
“Well, well, BabyB, from the jaws of defeat…you certainly pulled it out of le chapeau and slam dunked it on this one, I must say.”
“Oh, it was nothing really.”
“But what did you say to your opponent to get them to settle?  I’ve been trying to get anything out of the other side for years.”
“Oh, just an old-fashioned staring match and he blinked first,” was all I replied.

ClichéClanger, of course, thought I was joking.

April 26, 2016 · Tim Kevan · 2 Comments
Posted in: Uncategorized

2 Responses

  1. FS - February 4, 2008

    Hole In One – Brilliant

  2. BonarLaw - February 5, 2008

    “whole” ?