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“Pride is before a crash, and a haughty spirit before stumbling.” Proverbs 16:18 Part 1

By Robert Parness

More commonly rendered “pride comes before a fall,” this Bible verse has passed into the English language to become an everyday aphorism even for those unacquainted with its origins.

And with good reason.

Life has a cruelly poetic way of puncturing the egos of those puffed up by an unjustified confidence in their own abilities or a sense of their own superiority.

And nowhere is this more true than in the field of advocacy.

Advocacy is an art, not a science. Knowing your case and the applicable law is only a beginning. Knowing how to play the hand you have been dealt in the face of the opposition and the Judge is often a matter of intuition and, as I have written before, this includes knowing when to keep your big mouth shut no matter the temptation.

It is not a tactic which has ever appealed to me but every so often I am sure all advocates encounter an opponent who is determined to land the first blow in the Court waiting room before the hearing.

Relatively early in my advocacy career, going back more years than I care to think about, I was instructed to represent a paying party in what was, at that time, the Supreme Court Costs Office before the formidable Principal Costs Officer O’Riordan who was not a man to suffer fools, whether gladly or otherwise. It is also worth noting that he was the man before whom, by a quirk of fate, I had appeared more than any other in Court.

Prior to the hearing, I introduced myself to my opponent, whom I had never met, but who responded by offering his opinion of my abilities and the quality of firm I worked for at the time in a string of four letter words.

My client arrived and instructed me to put an offer to my opponent to pay 60% of the Bill, whereupon I was met with another string of four letter words.

The morning’s hearing passed relatively uneventfully save for my opponent attempting to curry favour by addressing the Principal Costs Officer by name.

Following the lunch break, the Principal Costs Officer, as was his wont, suggested that the parties settle. As “guidance” he indicated that he was looking to knock 40% off the Bill of Costs.

The parties exited the Court room to discuss matters and my opponent inevitably agreed to take 60% of the Bill but demanded his costs of the assessment. I politely told him that the Principal Costs Officer would not give him costs after he had given up 40% of his Bill so he demanded that we take the matter back into Court to which I was happy to agree.

Having heard argument, Principal Costs Officer O’Riordan, noted that this was the second time that the receiving party had come to Court and accepted far less than was claimed and made no Order as to costs.

As we left Court, I was quite willing to let bygones be bygones but my opponent would not even look at me, much less speak to me.

However, I must confess to at least a small measure of satisfaction upon seeing someone who had behaved in such a way receive his comeuppance, and in front of his own client no less.

Truly, pride comes before a fall.

Robert Parness is a Costs Lawyer with over 20 years’ experience in civil costs, representing both paying and receiving parties in all aspects of civil costs from Bill drafting through to detailed assessment hearings as well as advising clients on technical points of costs law.