Brett Hughes of Harris, Shelton, Hanover & Walsh on "The Value of Preparation in Litigation"

This is the 12th entry in our new weekly blog, "Beyond the Bio," where we ask MBQ Power Players to write a post of their choosing about their industry. This post is the second from our March/April Power Player category of Personal Injury Lawyers. Last week, Lang Wiseman of Wiseman Bray discussed the importance of law. Previously, Gary Smith of Apperson Crump on the importance of justice. The January/February Power Players category,Chief Operations Officers, featured Dawn Rapoport COO of Waddell & Associates discussing what makes COOs a "unique bunch." The week before, Chuck Woeppel, COO of UT Medical Group, addressed the future of health care. Previously, Mary Sharp, COO of CB Richard Ellis, discussed why business plans are so crucial to have to fall back on in a time of crises. Lee Rone, COO of Youth Villages,  shared why youth are so important to the family unity and the community. Richard McDuffie, COO of Dunavant Logistics, discussed the impact of technology on businessCheck this space weekly for future installments of "Beyond the Bio."

My father once told me long ago that “Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.” I took this to heart when it was first told to me, have heard the saying many times since, and, as with most endeavors in life, in my experience, preparation is the key to being successful in litigation.


I have practiced law in Memphis for 17 years now, and I am very pleased that I chose it as my profession. My practice has been almost exclusively devoted to litigation, trial and appellate practice. I began my practice as a prosecutor, and I am one of a handful of lawyers who has an active criminal and civil litigation practice. From this somewhat unique perspective, I have been able to observe the personal practices of lawyers who have enjoyed successes in the courtroom – and those who have not.


An oft-heard phrase among trial lawyers is that “if you prepare a case for trial, it will settle; if you prepare it to settle, you’ll try it.” I would also add that, if you properly prepare a case as if it’s going to trial, then you are much more likely to get a favorable result for your client than if you prepare it as if it were going to settle. This admonition to prepare is similar to UCLA basketball coach John Wooden’s famous adage: “Failing to prepare is preparing to fail.”


Focused pre-trial discovery is crucial to successful litigation, and I have found that taking the extra time with such preparation actually speeds up the process of bringing litigation to a conclusion. I know that lawyers, judges and the court system as a whole often get a bad rap with respect to the costs and length of time that a matter may take when it gets to the point of litigation. While litigation can certainly be a painstaking process at times, it has been my experience that when lawyers (and their clients) spend the time to prepare the case properly at the outset, then the litigation process is a much more efficient one.


Expediting the litigation process has become more of a focal point for the local judiciary in recent years, and I have generally been impressed with the efforts of the lawyers and judges in the Memphis bar in serving the interests of the judicial system at large in this regard. I pride myself on always trying to be more prepared than my opponent and not taking on too many cases at any one time. I certainly believe that our system of justice is preferable to any alternatives of which I am aware; and, as long as lawyers - and the litigants themselves - continue to focus on timely preparing their lawsuits, I am confident that this will always be the case.  


Brett Hughes Power Player Bio:


Member, Harris, Shelton, Hanover & Walsh, PLLC. B.A., University of Tennessee; J.D., Samford. Concentration in civil and criminal litigation, focusing on personal injury, commercial litigation, insurance coverage disputes, employment-related matters, and professional liability defense, including medical malpractice defense; as well was white-collar crime and DUI defense. Member, Memphis and Tennessee Bar Associations. Speaker at various CLE seminars for the TBA and MBA. Listed as a “Rising Star” in Mid-South Super Lawyers. Former assistant district attorney general, 30th Judicial District of Tennessee.  

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