Chance Favors The Prepared Mind: Litigation Lessons From The Super Bowl

Bill Belichick knows that preparation is the key to winning, and Sunday’s Super Bowl confirms his thinking.    In the waning moments of the game Tom Brady sits dejected on the sidelines as his fourth Super Bowl win is evaporating before his eyes.  Jermaine Kearse had just made an insane catch, and everyone knows that a one-yard run from Marshawn Lynch is a gimmie.  In the blink of an eye, an unknown rookie cornerback snatches victory from the jaws of defeat.  Tom Brady is jumping up and down on the sidelines like a school boy who just heard that school was canceled for a snow day.

The pundits immediately began questioning Pete Carroll’s calling a pass play on the one-yard line.  In reality, the call was not a bad call.  New England was in a goal line defense and the Seahawk’s play was a slant with a pick built into it.  If the pass had been incomplete, Seattle still had a timeout and two plays for Lynch to run the ball.

So what does all this have to do with a products liability blog and litigation?    In the post-game interview, Malcolm Butler was unable to articulate much about his interception.   However, the one word that jumped out at me was “preparation.”  Clearly, Bill Belichick is a great coach, and part of his genius lies in motivating his players to be prepared for contingencies.  As litigators, we see a lot of different plays called throughout the course of a particular case.  However, chance favors the prepared mind.  Young lawyers in particular need to be mindful of the value of preparation; know the adversary, know the judge, review the facts, analyze the law, and then do it again.   When one steps into the arena, whether it is the Super Bowl or the courtroom, you cannot be overly prepared.   Malcolm Butler had studied game films that had suggested to him that the Seahawks formation could be a pass play across the middle.  Once he realized that, his instincts took over, and he made a great play on the ball.  Just two plays earlier, Jermaine Kearse’s preparation and practice of catching thousands of balls helped him to catch a ball that was uncatchable.  Repetition is the mother of all skill, but I will cover that in another post.

In the final analysis, New England won because of Malcolm Butler’s preparation.  He had properly prepared for the game, and when the crucial situation presented itself, his preparation paid off.   In the course of litigation, when critical opportunities present themselves, chance will always favor the prepared mind.

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