There are so many kinds of law in our society that attorneys often develop specialties. And, that’s good – a person with a specific legal problem wants lawyers who know what they are doing. Life, however, is unpredictable, and when people get into disputes they can’t resolve on their own, those disputes may touch on many different kinds of law. An attorney must be flexible enough to quickly adapt to the unexpected. Here is an example of a case that required both expertise and flexibility.
Our client is a billion dollar international manufacturing company which, among other things, makes windows. Our client sells its windows to dealers who sell them to homeowners. After purchasing nearly half a million dollars in windows, one of the dealers failed to pay. So, we filed a law suit. They owed money; we should win. Easy. But, this case was not business as usual. Rather than argue they didn’t owe the money – like you would expect – the defendants created false television commercials in an attempt to ruin our client’s business.
This tactic took the case far outside the ordinary contract dispute. We interviewed marketing and brand experts about the effects of commercials on the public’s perception of a company. We were forced to make arguments about libel, product disparagement, trade mark violations, and many other issues. And, we had to make our arguments fast because the commercials were already running in Wyoming. Moreover, the defendants’ attorney argued that they had a Constitutional right to make their negative commercials, and Constitutional law is anything but simple.
We won our Constitutional arguments; we showed that the commercials would have been irreparably harmful to our client; and, over the next year, we overcame every single one of the other roadblocks from the defendants – including an attempted Class Action law suit, fraudulent transfers of assets, an appeal of our preliminary injunction stopping the commercials, and their claim that the president of the defendants’ company was so heavily medicated that he couldn’t answer deposition questions. Ultimately, days before the trial, the defendants surrendered and agreed to settle the case on favorable terms.
The lesson from this case is that while it is wise to choose a capable specialist, it is a distinct advantage to select an attorney who is flexible, willing to learn new things, and who has access to a range of experts. The people who oppose you in a case may not keep their actions within a narrow practice area. Life doesn’t specialize.