As an articling student, I remember one day being dispatched to small claims court in the sleepy cow town of Durham, Ontario. It was a long list, so I ended sitting and watching some of the notable lawyers in the area ply their trade. This being a truly small town, it was pretty much standing room only as far as an audience – court room drama is “A”-list entertainment with the weather a distant second. One lawyerly encounter (and its aftermath) was quite memorable:
One of the combatants was a notoriously flamboyant, E-Type Jaguar pilot. His opponent was much more subdued and plainspoken – let’s call him “Bob”. Right from the beginning, I could tell ‘E-Type’ was not paying much attention to the niceties of the law in formulating his argument – lots of distracting irrelevancies, marginally misstated legal principles and (to my eye and ear) a scatter-shot approach intended to distract from, not illuminate, his client’s position. Bob unobtrusively plodded along, setting out a textbook-perfect defense on behalf of his client.
The decision was (to me, at least), predictable. Bob’s client prevailed, was awarded modest costs and the next case was called. What happened next both startled me, and stayed with me, to this day, 30 years later. One of the spectators sitting right in front of me leaned over to his companion and, with obvious awe and admiration, intoned, “That (E-Type) is one helluva lawyer, isn’t he?”. I’ll say. E-Type poorly advised his client about the merits, represented him by putting on the proverbial dog and pony show and lost the case, yet ended up securing at least one (probably more) fans – a compelling victory of form over substance.
E-Type is still at it, meaning the bombast and bullshit business – I ran into him recently at a retirement dinner for one of my former law professors. He’s now a Supreme Court judge. Bob is serenely retired from the business.