Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. said, “The life of the law has not been logic; it has been experience… The law embodies the story of a nation’s development through many centuries, and it cannot be dealt with as if it contained only the axioms and corollaries of a book of mathematics.”  I first discovered Holmes’ writings in law school and I still like to go back to them to find perspective.
I think that another way to look at the life of the law is to think of it like evolution – it reuses the old, successful parts of everything that has come before. It is not static. It unfolds with new experiences and applications.
So, thinking how things have changed over the years, I’m drawn to my own experiences as a plaintiff’s lawyer in estate and trust challenges. A few of my early cases come to mind. The first case taught me that probate courts and, many times, local probate lawyers are the fountain of local knowledge. I represented a will contestant to an infamous bay area madame’s will. It was apparent at my first court appearance that the judge and nearly all the lawyers in the courtroom knew more about the decedent’s reputation and history than I did. In the end it didn’t matter – we secured a fair settlement for our client.
I’m glad that I learned an important lesson from another early case – a case that I took on a contingency fee basis. It was a case that few others would take. I took it, the case progressed well and I obtained the largest recovery for my client in my first few years of law practice.
Yes, experience can be the best teacher. I’m glad that I learned early to not be afraid of being the outsider. We litigate throughout California, so while we are highly experienced with many venues like Los Angeles, Alameda, Sacramento, and Santa Clara, the local bar is not always familiar to us. This is a risk that we weigh when we get into a case. I’m also glad that I learned to analyze, balance and weigh the risks of contingency cases. Not all cases are successful and not all cases qualify for a contingency fee. Still, our willingness to consider a contingency fee arrangement where appropriate gives prospective new clients an option that not all attorneys offer.
So if you’re in need of an experienced attorney to navigate a tough estate or trust dispute, you can call us at Hackard Law: 916-313-3030. We’re dedicated to protecting beneficiary interests, and we’ll be glad to see how we can help you.