Yogi Berra, 1956 (image is in the public domain)

Yogi Berra, 1956 (image is in the public domain)

We lost one of the greats last night, the irrepressible and beloved Hall of Fame Yankees catcher Yogi Berra. Below are a few words of Yogi’s wisdom —  “Yogi-isms” —  that can be applied to the world of lawyering, too.

“Ninety percent of this game is half mental”

Taking a case to trial can, at times, be an emotional roller coaster. Be mentally prepared to deal with clients’ worries and headstrong DAs, insurance adjustors and others. Sometimes people have legitimate nits, other times they just want to test you. Don’t take it personally and stay on course.

“You can observe a lot just by watching”

Yogi’s answer for his strategy as a manager has wisdom for lawyers, too. Let’s be honest, we’re great talkers, but it’s smart to watch and observe, too, from initial meetings with potential clients to witnesses on the stand. Everyone sends off messages through their style of dress, body language and so on. I write more about first impressions in Tips for What to Wear to Court.

“It ain’t over ’til it’s over”

Sometimes a case hits a few bumps, from a surprise statement by a witness that could potentially hurt your client’s case to tackling a difficult case that other lawyers wouldn’t touch. I’ve been in both situations, and won. Doubting the outcome of a case? Don’t. Instead, remain forthright with your client, do your homework, and set goals and priorities with your investigator. After all, it’s not over ’til it’s over.

Fearless, Shrewd and Unflappable

Maybe the most important thing we can learn from Yogi Berra is from the man himself. He was known to be a “bad ball” hitter — swinging at a lot of balls that weren’t strikes, and pounding them anyway.  He remained an industrial-strength player throughout the Yankees’ pinnacle, all the more admirable considering he played the most punishing, concentration-demanding position: catcher.

Reporters weren’t always kind to Yogi, making fun of his intellect and looks. Responding to a jab about being ugly, he said, “I never saw nobody hit one with his face.” But later reporters, such as Robert Lipsyte of the New York Times, gave Yogi his due: “He has continued to let people regard him as an amiable clown because it brings him quick acceptance, despite ample proof, onfield and off, that he is intelligent, shrewd and opportunistic.”

RIP, Yogi Berra.

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Managing Partner at Shaun Kaufman Law
Shaun Kaufman has 30 years of in-court experience, with hundreds of hours spent defending numerous high-profile cases including homicide, white-collar theft and RICO offenses. Specialties: Criminal defense, personal injury, business litigation, DUI.

Shaun Kaufman Law: 303-309-0430
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