“The pound of flesh which I demand of him. Is dearly bought.
‘Tis mine, and I will have it.”
Shylock, The Merchant of Venice
At the age of fifteen my mother had her first inkling that
maybe I would not spend my professional life as a manual laborer. Until that time I had, like so many working-class youths
in rural England, spent most of my time and energy getting lost,
getting stuck, getting hurt, and getting in trouble. Getting smart
was never on the agenda until an inspiring teacher cast/forced
me to take part in a Shakespeare play.
Macbeth is a
story of murder,
betrayal, witchcraft, obsession,
war. What better
way to snag the
attention of a
fevered adolescent imagination?
Since then, to
the world has
been a stage and
and his plays have
been a constant
analyst, commentator, and illuminator of people with all their motives, foibles,
weaknesses, conceits, and heroics.
Last year I participated in a new and different play—the
final act between carrier and vendor—a legal proceeding. This
project had gone so wrong the carrier decided it was hopeless
and filed for arbitration. The vendor, in turn, felt the carrier was
acting in bad faith and filed a counter claim. When I appeared
on the scene, as the expert witness for the vendor, the proceeding had been underway for months and the lawyers for my client had amassed the largest amount of paper I have ever seen in
one place in my life—enormous binders of system and project
documentation, deposition transcripts, reports, opinions, and
what all else.
Despite the importance and intensity of what followed
one of my abiding memories of that time is watching lawyers
trucking plastic crates full of binders on collapsible wheelies
down crowded streets and into elevators and conference rooms.
I swear there will be paperless bathrooms before there are pa-
perless legal proceedings.
But I digress. The main reason for writing this is simple:
Please, avoid a lawsuit or arbitration at all costs. They are tiring,
tense-making, unpleasant, demeaning, distracting, unpredict-
able, and expensive. The basic set-up of an arbitration is as fol-
lows: The carrier’s side is represented by executives and staff that
participated in the project, an expert witness, and legal counsel.
The vendor’s side was similarly equipped. Then there were the
arbitrators, three lawyers
who would decide a
Besides the arbitrators and the non-court-room environment it
was similar to what
we have all seen on
television or read in
legal thrillers. Witnesses
for one side get examined (relatively pleasant, this is the home
team playing together
and establishing their
story as rehearsed), then
they get cross examined (suddenly it gets
very unpleasant as the
opposing counsel takes
his swing at the witness’s
integrity, motives, and
Our lawyer’s advice
before taking the stand:
“Listen. Then think.
Then speak. Do not try
to do two things at once.”
He wasn’t being patronizing, he just knew how
easy it was to get confused and turned around
by a professional from
the other team. Finally
Carrier and vendor play out the final act of the drama in an arbitration hearing.
By George Grieve
talked in terms
of winning and
losing and did
within the law
to achieve those