The Daily

Last Leaf On The Tree

One lesson I continue to learn is the value of preparation and diligent research. The temptation to cut corners is a constant in modern life. Technology makes surrendering to rote copy and pasting even easier than when I was in school. It is never a good idea.

President’s Day reminded me of a story about Lincoln that I included in this post back in 2016 called “Why I’m a Trial Lawyer (No. 2)”.

Before the war, Lincoln was involved in the Effie Afton case in Chicago concerning a steamship accident on a railroad bridge spanning the Mississippi. The case pitted River interests against the Railroad and became a celebrated cause for the westward movement of the Country. As part of the Railroad defense team, Lincoln visited the bridge site, sat on the bridge watching the currents and spoke to the engineer and his family in detail about the circumstances of navigation around the bridge. His detailed understanding of the facts resulted in his selection as the lawyer to make the closing argument, which he did with precision and persuasion, using a model of the ship, details about mechanical failures of the steamship’s rudder, the history of other ship’s safe navigation of the bridge and specifics of the currents that pushed the malfunctioned ship into the bridge – none the fault of the Railroad as he argued successfully.

Paying attention to the details pays off every time, even when it slows you down a mite. Doesn’t matter your profession. For the tinker, tailor, soldier, and spy …. details matter. Even songwriters. Tom Waits wrote a song about being “The Last Leaf On The Tree”, tabulating all the natural details that threaten the leaf and killed off his compadres. But not him.

“I was talking to the record company and they say, ‘Any guests you want on the record?’ And I said, ‘What about Keith Richards?’ I was just joking, but somebody went ahead and called him,” Waits recalled. “And then he said, ‘Yeah.’ And I said, ‘Now we’re really in trouble.'”
Of course, it all worked out because, in the end, those guys are pros and attend to all the details.