As I watched the elimination matches of the 2018 World Cup, I cannot help but think back to my days as the goal tender and co-captain of the Englewood School for Boys soccer team (now Dwight Englewood). I realize that many of my life lessons taught to me by Coach Lender and the principles I apply to litigation on behalf of my injured clients come from my experience as a goalie in one of the best high school teams in the state. In many respects, tending the goal is like being lead counsel in a World Cup match. In the match, the goalie has the ultimate responsibility to save the game. No one will beat your team, if the goalie keeps the ball out of the net. As trial counsel, my responsibility is to at all costs protect my client and to keep irrelevant information from getting to the jury. Fighting this battle is reminiscent of a game-saving diving block. It is physical, it is one-on-one. You might not block every shot, but your opponent knows there will be no easy points scored. Tending a goal is so similar to defending a client’s rights. A win does not come without discipline and preparation. When a ball is blocked, it’s the goalie’s job to set the ball down field where it will be positioned to score and win.
The goalie must always keep their eyes on the ball to anticipate the opponent’s moves.
Preparation includes knowing the opponent’s strengths and weaknesses. That means training continuously for a match,or preparing for trial from the first time I meet my client. Communication with teammates is essential to scoring. A winning team needs more than just standout players to consistently win. They need a team committed to sacrificing individual glory for the sake of winning a championship. Un-sportsman like conduct on the field or in the court room is a poor substitute for a disciplined defense.
Breaking up a potential goal-scoring situation requires taking risks and doing the unexpected. Thinking outside the box in presenting a case has always been a value that I’ve passed on as a senior partner of my firm. Be grateful for those who have mentored you and pass it on. I owe so much to my coach, the late Charlie Lender. While we affectionately mimicked his Hungarian accent, we respected his techniques and dedication, which he learned in Europe as a child and brought to America. And finally, I recall how the friendships I built with teammates strengthened me as a player, as a person, and advocate for my clients. The comradery on the field and among trial team members is an enduring gift. Thank you, Charles Lender, for you taught me much more than protecting a net.
The author, Samuel L. Davis, Esq. is an alumnus of the Englewood School for and was captain of his high school soccer team in a 9/2 season. After high school, Mr. Davis attended Tufts University and Rutgers Law School. Mr. Davis founded Davis, Saperstein & Salomon, P.C., a Teaneck, NJ firm that represents the injured in NJ and NY, that employs over 25 lawyers and 70 support staff.