“Off the Back” is a phrase used in competitive road cycling describing a rider dropped by the lead group who, consequently, has lost the energy saving benefit of riding in the group’s slipstream. Once off the back the rider struggles alone in the wind to catch up. It’s difficult and lonely. Often you feel as if you’ll never catch up. Nevertheless, riding off the back does have one redeeming quality . . . it makes one a stronger and more determined rider.
The life of a criminal defense lawyer shares many of the characteristics of a bike rider struggling off the back. We are always preparing cases for trial, working long hours, managing a business, marketing, selling, maintaining a healthy home life, and providing clients the highest level of customer service possible. It is an endless crusade. Accordingly, each month through “Off the Back” I hope to share ideas and experiences to assist my friends in the practice of law be more successful. I am determined to help you shoulder this load and make us stronger by writing about the ubiquitous legal issues we regularly encounter. But I will also contribute ideas about trial tactics, law office management, marketing a law practice, sales, technology, and other issues affecting our lives as criminal defense lawyers.
I understand the life of a trial lawyer . . . probably all trial lawyers. For that reason I am not your competitor in this but your compadre. I mean to educate, enlighten, and maybe even inspire. Mostly, I want to help by revealing my practical knowledge developed over the last twenty years running a law business. And since only a trial lawyer truly understands the life of another trial lawyer, I say let’s work together “Off the Back” to become stronger, better informed, and more effective in the business and practice of law.
We begin this journey with the necessary mindset, the mindset of a warrior. “Never give up, never surrender” is Rule #13. It’s a rule about the value of pushing forward even in the face of certain defeat. Our professional responsibility is to fight until the end, until we have no more opportunity to fight, until we have no more energy to fight. We fight battles and wonder why we don’t win. Rule #13 is about doing our best even though we come up short. Sometimes we must retreat and regroup before we can continue the fight. But retreating is not giving up, it is not surrender. Retreat is necessary to find our energy and our center again. It helps us push forward in the face of uncertainty. And since we all need something pushing us from behind and pulling us from the front, we all need Rule #13. There will be no giving up! There will be no surrender! Thank you so much for the opportunity to serve.
(“Off the Back” featured in the “Voice For The Defense” August 2014)
Stephen Gustitis is a criminal defense lawyer in Bryan-College Station. He is Board Certified in Criminal Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization. He is also a husband, father, and a retired amateur bicycle racer.