I Wish I'd Known

Vol. 42 No. 9

By

Kathlynn Smith is a partner at Hunt Ortmann in Pasadena, California. She specializes in construction and general business litigation. Kathlynn has successfully represented owners, developers, contractors, and subcontractors in a wide variety of matters relating to contract administration and construction claims. She places a particular emphasis on construction claims involving payment disputes, delay and disruption, false claims, construction defects, and actions on payment and performance bonds. She has successfully litigated and resolved complex construction disputes involving multimillion dollar claims.

Kathlynn is the coauthor of the “Smart Girls’ Guide To Construction Law” and architect of the “Smart Girls” initiative directed at women-owned or operated companies in the construction industry. The Smart Girls’ mission is to advance and support the success of women in the construction industry. Learn more about the Smart Girls and the “Smart Girls’ Guide” at http://smartgirlsconstruction.com.

There are countless qualities that great lawyers have in common. The one that is loudly touted, but incredibly hard to achieve, is objectivity. Putting aside whether true objectivity is possible (or desirable, for that matter), I have found that staying focused and above the fray is easier said than done.

To understand where I’m coming from, you should know a little about me. I am a true competitor. I enjoy difficult tasks and underdog odds. I know my voice and use it—often. And I love—and I mean love—that moment when you know you’ve out maneuvered your opponent and victory is in your grasp. These qualities are what make me a great advocate. The problem with all us competitors—and you know you’re one, too—is that we are susceptible of losing sight of our role to be objective.

As competitors, we easily transform our cases into battles that end in complete victory (or loss). Unfortunately, the hallowed halls of justice rarely allow for such satisfying absolutes. Even when you have both the facts and the law on your side, the path to victory is peppered with obstacles and defeats—whether inflicted by opposing counsel or the court. When you’ve lost sight of the boundary between you and your client or a legal position and your value as an advocate, those setbacks can be demoralizing.

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