How to Stay Motivated After Losing a Legal Case

Every lawyer will lose a case at some point, here’s what you can do about it

Every lawyer, regardless of abilities, will lose a case from time to time because, despite your best efforts, factors outside of your control may result in the loss. For example, you may get an unfavorable jury or judge who has a bias in a direction against you. Your witnesses may prove to be without credibility despite extensive preparation. The other side may perform “trial by ambush” and produce the “smoking gun” at trial. You may have underestimated the strengths of the opposing party’s case generally. You may have a client who sends you into court on a “suicide mission”. All of these and many more can lead you to a loss.

Look, we are all human and you can lose a case due to your performance – it happens. You may have made critical tactical errors. You may have missed a critical legal argument. You may have failed to uncover a star witness against your case. You may have been unable to secure key evidence in favor of your case.

Regardless of the reason for your loss, it’s important to stay motivated after losing a case. Learning from the failure as opposed to dwelling on the failure is absolutely critical to your self-esteem.

It’s always a great idea to decompress after a trial regardless of the success. It becomes critical to always be learning from any failure or for that matter, any success. 

“The only real mistake is the one from which we learn nothing.” – Henry Ford

What I tend to do is review the evidence and law arguments after the conclusion of the trial, in order to determine how the case proceeded. It is better to do this immediately after the trial is concluded as opposed to waiting for judgment because many of the details will be lost with the passage of time. This review helps to lessen the blow if you lose the case as you can often forecast a negative outcome. It also helps to set in place a game plan to do better next time if there are some errors or omissions in the manner in which the case was presented.

Invariably, I send around emails to other lawyers in the law firm to educate them on potential pitfalls and successes so that the lawyers at the law firm do not fall into a similar trap. If we have a “sneaky” defense lawyer or a “non-Plaintiff friendly” judge, it is critical that these individuals are “earmarks” for potential future cases. The players in a lawsuit are important factors to decide whether to proceed to trial or settle.

More importantly, it’s critical to stay motivated after losing a case. Always think of it as a learning experience. It should motivate you to win the next case armed with the learning experience of the loss.

The best way to stay motivated after losing a case is to not to take the loss personally. It’s clear that extrinsic factors out of your control will exist on some files and so a loss is not a personal attack on you. Stay focused, move on and win the next case.

Written by Wes Mussio of Mussio Goodman Law Group