This chapter may be a tribute to my mother and to my high school English teachers and the lessons I did not appreciate until years later.

Before I started school, my mother read Uncle Remus by Joel Chandler Harris to me. At bedtime I always begged for one more story. At ages four and five I did not understand how stories such as The Wonderful Tar-Baby and The Briar Patch would help me negotiate for clients 70 years later.

First, Brer Rabbit lost his temper with the Tar-Baby, became violent, and got himself into an awful jam. Then Brer Rabbit had to talk himself out of that jam. He showed a perfect willingness to be barbecued, to be hung, to be drowned, and to be skinned but he expressed an awful fear of being thrown in the briar patch. Brer Fox threw Brer Rabbit into the briar patch, exactly what Brer Rabbit wanted. One lesson is do not lose your temper or become violent. The second lesson is that sometimes the best way to avoid a contested case is to show a perfect willingness to go through with it.

When my client tells their spouse and anyone else who will listen they want to settle the case and they do not want to go to court, my job becomes much harder because the other lawyer knows that I am under pressure from my own client to settle.

As a child, I loved Mark Twain’s stories and I still love them today. Every client should understand Chapter II of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. Understanding how Tom let the neighborhood boys whitewash the fence for him is a valuable lesson with many applications in life. If Tom Sawyer wanted to avoid court, he would never say so. His response would be “All I know is, it suits Tom Sawyer.”



O'Henry’s Ransom of Red Chief is the story of kidnappers who not only fail to collect the ransom, they pay the father of the child to take him back. This story demonstrates both the power of psychology and the likelihood that when a non-custodial parent “kidnaps” the children, he will most probably bring them back. I keep books with each of these stories on my office bookshelf. Consider reading these stories to your own children but absorb the lessons for yourself.