Planning ahead can be the difference between winning and losing

The New York Times did something very interesting last week: it published the article its reporter had written for the paper to use had Vice President Joe Biden decided to run for president. The editors published the article because they thought it helped explain why he didn’t run. But the most important lesson one should take from the article has nothing to do with politics.

The most important lesson is about being prepared. As the Times acknowledged, when a big news event is coming but no one knows how it will turn out, the paper often prepares multiple articles based on the possible outcomes. That is a smart thing to do — and sometimes being prepared like that is even essential.

We recently learned about a case in which a party wanted to file an appeal. The party lost an important ruling in the trial court, and that ruling had an immediate, negative impact on that party. The ruling was likely incorrect, and there was a good chance that the appellate court would reverse it. But the party and its trial attorney didn’t consider the possibility that the trial court might rule against them, so they failed to plan.

Due to the nature of the case, the party needed almost immediate relief from the trial court’s ruling. To get that relief, they needed to find and hire an appellate attorney and have that attorney get up to speed, prepare the necessary appellate motion and briefs, file them with the appellate court, and get the appellate court to issue a ruling — all within 48 hours.

Needless to say, that was an impossible task. Even though the party should have won the case, they lost because they didn’t plan for the possibility that the trial court might rule against them and they would need to quickly appeal.

We once faced a similar task for a client, but we planned ahead and had our emergency appellate motion and briefs ready to be filed before we even went to trial. When the trial judge ruled against our client, we were able to get the Georgia Supreme Court to intervene in less than 72 hours, and we ultimately won the case.

Newspapers prepare multiple articles based on the possible outcomes of big events so they can be ready when those big events happen. Similarly — when time matters, like when a client’s manufacturing supply chain will be interrupted by an adverse ruling — good lawyers plan ahead in case things don’t go their client’s way, and they get their client to confront and plan for those possibilities before they happen. Such advance planning is a good idea in other business settings too.

To try to save money and effort, some may say let’s not think about those possibilities unless it’s necessary. But sometimes once it becomes necessary, it can be too late.