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President’s Message: Tony Time

Mon., July 1, 2019 \ by Anthony F. Sos, Esq.\ Articles, News 

President’s Message // “Tony Time” by Anthony F. Sos, Esq. // The Briefs, July 2019 Vol. 87 No. 6. //

Why would I title the “President’s Message” “Tony Time,” and what on earth does that mean? (Stay with me, it’s not as self-aggrandizing or trivial as it may sound!)

Not long after I moved back to Orlando and joined my firm in 2004, I was asked to participate in a trial and deliver the opening statement. It was a complex wrongful death case involving a whole host of issues, and I knew it would take some time to get my thoughts together to properly prepare. I did not know it at the time, but the problem I was encountering every time I wanted to sit down and prepare was simple: too many distractions: e-mails, calls to the office phone, calls to the cell, coworkers popping in, text messages. Day after day I promised myself that this was the day I would get it done. Two weeks later, still no opening statement.

Finally fed up with the endless distractions of daily office life, I grabbed my materials and left. Not sure where I was headed, I later found myself in the coffee shop of a chain bookstore. I put my phone away, put headphones on, and got to work. What a great move that turned out to be.

Transporting myself to a different location allowed me to block out the distractions of the office and make real progress. A project that had been weighing on me for weeks took only about three hours to complete.

Upon my return to the office, Ken McKenna (not one to let a young lawyer’s absence go unnoticed) quizzed me about where I had been. After explaining that my much-needed change of scenery led to three solid hours of productivity, he dubbed such future sojourns “Tony Time.”

Why am I sharing this story? Yes, we all know by now – eliminate distractions, get more work done. But for me, it’s much more than that. I’ve found that if I create the right space for myself, I get my best and most creative work done.

Practicing law is a tough business. We have to balance a lot personally and professionally – managing deadlines (often beyond our control), meeting client expectations, building a case, making overhead, networking – all while trying to maintain healthy relationships with colleagues, friends, and family. It can be overwhelming.

But practicing law offers great things, too. My favorite part of practicing law is reaching the Aha! moment in a case – figuring out the best argument to win. I bet everybody reading this article knows what I am talking about… that moment when a great idea or argument crystalizes, and you know it will have a big impact on the case. Perhaps amidst all the chaos and pressure, ideas do actually percolate. But it usually takes finally pushing aside all the noise for me to find that key piece of evidence that breaks open a case, land on the theme that will resonate with the jury, or see a settlement strategy. In short, most of my Aha! moments occur during “Tony Time.”

One experience in particular crystallized in my mind that this process offers the best part of what I do. I represented a client in a medical negligence case against a chiropractor. Brace yourself; it is a sad case. My client became permanently paralyzed from the chest down after undergoing a chiropractic manipulation treatment. The doctor vehemently denied any wrongdoing or that his manipulation caused the paralysis. I was scheduled to take his deposition, which I anticipated would be unusually adversarial. Given the defenses raised, I knew the deposition was crucial. I needed to be extra prepared, with a strong command of the facts, the timeline, the medical history, and the standard of care. But as the deposition date approached, those pesky little distractions began raising their ugly heads. Enter “Tony Time.”

Creating space away from the office once again allowed me to be laser-focused. In the midst of that focused preparation, I picked up on something very subtle that I may not have otherwise observed. It appeared that the doctor had self-servingly altered his medical records to cover up what actually happened. Aha! Case cracked. Not to make light of a very serious matter, but think of the scene in My Cousin Vinny where Joe Pesci tells Marisa Tomei she cracked the case with the picture she took of him in the shower behind the curtain.1   Except, this time, these altered records really did crack the case. I doubt I would have zeroed in on them the way I did had I not gotten away from the distractions.

We live in a fast-paced world with concentration becoming a lost art. I submit to you, though, whether you are working out a complex legal problem or wrestling with a personal issue, you are more likely to find your best answers with a little bit of your own “Tony Time.”

Make space. Pause. Reflect. Your best ideas will come!

Anthony F. Sos, Esq., is a partner at Dellecker, Wilson, King, McKenna, Ruffier & Sos, LLP. He has been a member of the OCBA since 2005.

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