As long as we love we serve; so long as we are loved by others, I would almost say that we are indispensable; and no man is useless while he has a friend. – Robert Louis Stevenson, Lay Morals
As I’ve mentioned previously (January 21, 2011, “Long long before you sue: Getting Hip 4”), I read with avid interest the news articles on Anucha Browne Sanders’s lawsuit against the New York Knicks and Isiah Thomas. And it was from Ms. Browne Sanders that I learned how precious it is to have friends who support you when you sue.
Before she went on the witness stand, knowing she would be cross-examined harshly, Ms. Sanders called her closest friends and asked them to be there in court for her. And they came. So when the defense lawyers hit at her hard, with all those nasty things defense lawyers imply when they’ve got a woman on the witness stand, Ms. Browne Sanders was able to look out into the packed courtroom and find the warm, caring faces of her best friends.
Now, even before you find a lawyer, it’s time to get in touch with your friends and family members to tell them what you’re intending. Tell them you may need their support in the coming years (it could take that long).
Promise them you’ll do your best not to abuse their patience but assure them that this lawsuit is righteous and necessary for your life, and you need them to be with you. Explain what you’ve learned about your lawsuit and your prospective defendant. Be positive and firm.
Some friends and relations will carp, will warn you of the terrible times you’re facing, will dis you. Some friends will get distressed at the idea of a lawsuit. They’re projecting upon you their own fears about being assertive and they’re knocking you down for having the guts they don’t have. Put people like this on your mental list of “don’t call to report on progress of lawsuit,” but keep them as friends, if you can. If you can’t, put them on hold until you’re finished with this business. And tell them why you’re doing it: suing can be agitating enough without friends dumping on you.
Explain to friends who are supportive that you may in the future be obsessive and boring to them. Ask them to bear with you and tell them what I said about obsession: it’s an excellent driving force for learning and persisting under difficult circumstances. (Cite my authority if you like; you have my permission, no charge.)
Also tell them I said you need them for sympathy because I guarantee you won’t be getting it from your lawyer.