June 8, 2014

What I learned From Game of Thrones

I'll confess that HBO's Game of Thrones is a guilty pleasure, one that I look forward to every Sunday.

It is too cheesy, gory, and cartoonish to be confused with other highly promoted HBO shows like Boardwalk Empire, the Wire, or cable shows like Breaking Bad. It's really just an expensive fantasy piece, a thoroughly violent bit of escapism that merges King Arthur-type fables with a Lord of the Rings motif, under a heavy overlay of prime time soap opera and palace intrigue. It's essentially Knots Landing for the Dungeons and Dragons set.

Other than confirming how lucky I am not to have lived in the days of the Seven Kingdoms, when life could rightly be described as "nasty, brutish and short," GOT generally fails as an educational show. That is, until Tyrion Lannister once again chose trial by combat in an attempted end-around his rigged trial for regicide.

When I first graduated law school, an older lawyer gave me a piece of advice that has held true: when you are winning, shut up. I have on many occasions heard lawyers talk themselves out of victory. One very credible story told to me involved a seasoned, verbose lawyer arguing a motion at the bench. Upon hearing the judge rule in his favor, the lawyer nodded approvingly and said, "that's a good ruling judge, and let me tell you why . . . ." Seriously, a true story.

This leads me to trial by combat. (An excellent idea, by the way, but only if I get to handpick my opponents). Watching Oberyn primp and preen over his fallen adversary, you could just see his demise coming. Like a badly staged WWE wrestling match, the Mountain was just biding his time, waiting for the right moment to act.

My point? Whatever gold stars you think you win by playing to the crowd, or by seeking collateral concessions -- whether it's trying to get your adversary to admit to raping and murdering your sister or something more banal -- you are risking far too much not to take the win when it is offered. In short, if victory is possible, seize it immediately. Seeking to perfect it, to score every point, or obtain every possible dime, puts you at risk of having your adversary catch you by the ankle, roll over you, plunge his thumbs through your eyes, and squeeze your head in his giant hands until it bursts.

No matter how skilled an attorney you are, no matter your level of confidence, always respect your adversary, and remember the cruel and fickle hand of fate. Or, when you are winning, shut up and step back.

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