10 Life Lessons from My 32 Years as a Trial Lawyer

Here are 10 lessons that I've learned in my extensive experience as a trial lawyer.

Here are 10 lessons that I’ve learned in my extensive experience as a trial lawyer.

1. Wear your safety belt.

Safety belts save lives. In 2009, one of the greatest champions of justice in Texas was killed in a single-car accident when his SUV went out of control and crashed into a tree. He was not wearing his safety belt.

2. Use your bicycle helmet.

Bicycle helmets save lives. Bicycle helmets save brains. Even mild trauma can cause permanent brain damage. Most kinds of brain damage will not heal. Injured brain tissue does not heal itself. Brain damage is permanent damage. Brain damage is life-changing.

In most cases, brain damage will negatively impact:

  • The ability to engage in productive employment
  • The ability to enjoy life and to engage in rewarding recreational activities
  • The ability to interact with loved ones and close friends

3. Tell those you love and care about that you love and care about them.

I have seen too many cases where life changes in an instant. Driving to work may seem like a safe and benign activity. But all it takes is one moment of inattention by another driver to cause a catastrophic collision. Whether it is a broken back, a broken brain, or weeks of chronic pain, the life that one has after a serious accident will never be the same.

If this happens to you, you will never have the chance to tell your family, your friends or your loved ones how much you have cared about them, how much you have loved them, or how greatly they have contributed to your life – until it is too late.

As a result, make sure that you tell those who you care about, and those who you love, that you love them and care about them. And do this – every single day.

Don’t wait until it is too late. There is no second chance once a brain injury or catastrophic injury takes place. There is no second chance once the months of chronic pain begin. Start NOW.

4. Don’t follow too closely.

Rear end collisions happen every day. Thousands of rear-end collisions happen every day. Rear-end collisions cause real injuries. Rear-end collisions cause real pain. Rear-end collision cause real disability.

“It will never happen to me. I am a careful driver.” – Human beings are not well equipped to respond in an instant fashion. We are all incapable of reacting instantly. When the car in front of you stops, your own car will travel a certain distant before you can even effectively apply the brakes. Your car will travel forward as you perceive and react to the danger ahead.

At 60 miles per hour, a car will travel approximately 100 feet before the brakes are even applied to slow the car! At 60 miles per hour, a car will travel 88 feet each and every second!

To stay out of trouble – to keep you and your family safe and secure – DON’T FOLLOW TOO CLOSE. Keep a safe distance from the car ahead of you. One car length for each 10 miles per hour. You will then have time to react safely – and stop in time – when the car in front of you stops or slows.

5. BEWARE of brake stop lights on the freeway ahead of you.

When cars or trucks slow down on the freeway ahead, the brake lights come on. When cars or trucks STOP on the freeway ahead, the brake lights come on. If you are the following vehicle on the freeway, especially at night, you cannot tell if the vehicle ahead of you is slowed or actually STOPPED until it is too late.

If you think the car ahead is only slowing, and you are wrong, you will not be able to apply the brakes to stop. When we discover the car ahead on the freeway is actually stopped, we are at risk of hitting that vehicle and causing serious injury.

Therefore …when you see brake lights on the freeway ahead of you – think STOP, not SLOWED …

… and act as if the car ahead may be STOPPED, not just SLOWING DOWN.

6. You can lose your hearing painlessly.

Your hearing is one of your basic senses. Your hearing is an essential sense. Your hearing is an important organ to hear and interact with the world around you.

The joy of music comes from hearing. The joy of friends and family comes from hearing – in large part. We communicate by hearing. We are soothed through hearing. We learn through hearing. We are kept safe by the sounds we hear.

Hearing loss is painless. Loud music, loud engines, noisy environments all cause various degrees of hearing loss. Have you ever been with your grandmother in her house and the TV is turned way up and too loud? Have you ever had to talk LOUD to an older person, because they can’t hear what you are saying?

Acoustical trauma causes a premature loss of hearing. Damage to hearing can happen without pain.

IF YOU SUFFER ANY PAIN OR DISCOMFORT IN YOUR EARS – whether at a rock concert or while using a lawnmower or at a construction site – YOUR HEARING IS BEING DAMAGED … and it is being damaged permanently.

Once your hearing becomes damaged, it cannot be restored. Small hairs in the inner ear are broken and brittle when exposed to acoustic trauma – excessive noise and excessively loud environments. When broken and brittle, these small hairs do not grow again, or replace themselves.

Hearing damage is permanent. So … protect your ears, protest your hearing. Use ear protection. Use earplugs. Avoid noisy and excessively loud environments. You will hear your music as long as you live. You will hear your loved ones whisper in your ear in your 60′s, and 70′s, and 80′s. You will hear the first birds sing in the spring. You will help to preserve one of the most valuable senses that you have.

7. Protect your brain.

8. Volunteer your time to help others.

9. Count your blessings.

Each of us has ups and downs in our lives. No one is perfect. No one is without “warts” or “skeletons in the closet.”

We are all engaged in stressful and busy lives – at home, in our work, and with our families. We all have setbacks and disappointments. We all feel as if we can do better – should do better – for ourselves and for our families.

We all worry about our children’s futures. Whether we can give them a better life. How they will do in the uncertain future that awaits them.

Take heart that none of us are alone in our fears or in our worries.

Each of us has many things to be thankful for. Each of us is blessed with many wonderful things.

When we think we are failing, or doing less than we aspire to, consider the many blessings that we have in our lives. There are countless people with tremendous courage who have profound disabilities who expend enormous energy to live normal lives.

There are many people whose lives are immensely challenging, who struggle every day to do the tasks that many of us take for granted.

The human spirit is undaunted in its resolve, courage and perseverance. This is not to invoke sympathy for those less fortunate, but to promote empathy for those who lives are more challenging and less fortunate than your own.

So … stay healthy, look after yourself, and take care of yourself for the sake of yourself, your family, your friends, and your loved ones.

Count your blessings and the many things you have to be thankful for. You are a wonderful person, with many gifts, and with many others who care about you.

10. Depression kills.

Depression has been found to have a more profound impact on life expectancy and well-being than smoking cigarettes!