By Kenneth M. Levine
All the file boxes have been packed and shipped to the hotel, again. My suits and ties are in the suitcase, again. The experts have been scheduled, again. I am on a plane to fly out to a trial in a birth injury case, again. I am scheduled to meet the family tomorrow night to go over their trial testimony and prepare, again.
This is the third birth injury case I will have taken to trial in the past four months. The schedule has been tough. It was three weeks in Oklahoma City. Home for five days and three more weeks in Chicago. Home for four days and now on my way to three weeks in Yakima, a small town two hours east of Seattle. I am tired, I miss my wife and I am worried that I have not had time to sufficiently prepare for trial. On the plane ride out I try to find some energy but it’s a losing cause, so I just sleep.
Hours later I finally get to the hotel. I unpack, set up the small desk in my room with supplies, open the boxes with the files that have arrived from FedEx and take a short walk to find something to eat. Looks like pizza is my best bet. I don’t have a lot of time, so I start to eat the pizza walking back to the hotel. I stop at a small convenience store on the way to stock up on Diet Pepsi, I need the caffeine. I am too tired to do much work tonight, so I call my wife to tell her I arrived safely and just to hear her voice. I’ll get started on the files bright and early the next morning.
The next day is all preparation. Review of depositions and medical records, outlines for the testimony of the witnesses and experts. Writing and revising the opening statement. I am too focused to be tired, to afraid not to be ready for trial. Its approaching late afternoon and I will be meeting my clients in a few minutes in the hotel lobby. This trial is their one chance to get justice for their injured child and they deserve my best so I pick up my pace, put a smile on my face and pray I can climb the mountain again.
The elevator opens and I see the parents and their child sitting in the lobby. I have seen video of the child, but this is the first time I will meet the little boy in person. And then, as I walk toward the parents it happens. The smile. The little boy smiles and lights up the room. I knew he had a has a severe physical limitation from the video but seeing the boy in person is heartbreaking. He cannot use his right arm or hand but there he is walking toward me with a big smile on his face to give me a hug. It feels so good, so honest and genuine and I hug him right back. The boy has never met me but somehow he knows who I am, that I am there to fight for him. Despite his terrible injury, three surgeries and days of physical therapy, he is a happy, wonderful child. All these kids are. They love life and it shows all over their face.
Suddenly I feel an energy, a fire go through my body. My mind is clear, and I am sharp, focused. I forget any feeling of being tired, I forget that I am far from home and am in for a grueling few weeks. I forget about me. I am primed for the trial, to climb the next mountain. I want the trial to start right now, I am ready. It was the smile, that sweet, warm, innocent smile that brought me right back, that made me believe, that set me for the battle the next three weeks will be. If that boy with his serious disability can smile, laugh, and love life, well I can give everything I have, every ounce of effort and energy to win his case. I think about what an honor it is to stand up for these kids and families, to try and be their champion. I know I never could have been a corporate lawyer or a real estate lawyer. I know I am where I should be, on the frontline, in the trenches, fighting for the children. And all it took was that smile, that sweet smile. Now let’s go win this case.