Hamilton Herald Masthead


Front Page - Friday, February 13, 2015

Pick your arguments

View from the Cheap Seats

William O. "Bill" James

Every trial lawyer has a story about a mom, dad, or other close relative commenting on what a great lawyer they will make based on their love of argument. There’s no doubting that there are people that love to argue. We all know people that would rather argue than breathe. It may actually be that they breathe by arguing. Either way, all they do is argue.

Just the same, there are people that never argue and refuse to do so. Of course, most of us are somewhere between the two extremes. We regularly argue about things; some important, some not. Think about some of the arguments you have participated in recently. Was it important that you win the argument or were you arguing just to argue? Did the point you were arguing about have any real significance?

How many hours of your life have been spent arguing about things that do not matter? Pay attention and force yourself to remain silent next time someone says something in your presence that you know with all of your heart is wrong. Unless what they have said has bearing on your life, why bring it up? Is it just that important for you to be correct? 

The other day, I was having lunch with some friends. We were reminiscing about something that happened in law school. A dispute erupted over who was involved in the incident. The amusement of the story was ruined by the stupid dispute. The argument went on for several minutes, even though it really meant nothing to the story. By the time the argument was over, the story had lost its shine and we all went back to work. The story would have ended so much better had someone not demanded to be right.

I don’t think the instigator of the argument actually convinced anyone of anything. The argument ended when the others just got tired of arguing, not because they were convinced. What kind of victory is that? To the extent it is any kind of victory, the cost to everyone else makes it a net loser. How many of those arguments have you won?

I feel like I have won a lot of meaningless arguments. Many of the arguments I won because I was right; many I won because people got tired of arguing with me. I do love to argue, and there are those that will say I’m pretty good at it. The thing about arguing is that it’s no different than anything else in life: There’s a time to argue and there is a time to keep your mouth shut. The trick is to know what time it is. That’s true for everyone, especially those of us way up in the CHEAP SEATS!

This column was originally published in the Hamilton County Herald on Feb. 14, 2014. 

Bill James is a co-founder of the James Law Firm with offices in Little Rock, Conway and Fayetteville, Arkansas. His primary area of practice is criminal defense.  He can be contacted at  Bill@JamesFirm.com.