Book Report - The Ben Franklin Factor by James C. Humes

By: Geoff Hamby, Trial Attorney/Catastrophic Injury Division

BEN FRANKLINThe period of history surrounding the American Revolution has always been something that was extremely interesting to me. It was during this time that the 7th Amendment, and our modern understanding of the American Jury Trial, was invented. The Founding Fathers were extremely supportive of a strong and robust judicial system with active citizen involvement. When I saw that we had a book on Ben Franklin in our library, I knew I had to read it. The book is not necessarily targeted at lawyers, but I think there are three key things that we can apply to our firm that would help us be the best trial lawyers in Arkansas.

First, Ben Franklin had a profound effect on people because of his empathy. Empathy is the ability to place yourself in someone else’s shoes to see a situation from their point of view. We must do that as trial lawyers. We have to be able to see our cases from the point of view of the judge, jury, and defense in order to effectively advocate for our clients. Ben Franklin was very good at doing this in his everyday life. He found out that the best way to do this, was to simply listen. If you pay attention to what people say, instead of focusing on what you want to say, people will tell you how they truly feel. Ben Franklin did this in every walk of his life. In fact, the book credits this as the primary cause for Franklin’s success in his love life. He was short and chubby but made women feel like they were the only person in the world when they spoke to him. He applied this same approach to negotiating. If he wanted to ask for something, he would listen intently to what the other person was saying so that he could guide their words to sound like his. With a little bit of empathy, gained by listening to what others say, a lot can be accomplished.

Second, Ben Franklin was able to get things done because he didn’t care who got the credit. The book tells the story of when Nathan Pusey turned over the presidency of Harvard to James Conant. Pusey told Conant, “You can either do a good job or get the credit for doing a good job but you can’t do both!” Franklin applied this line of thinking directly to his life. In politics, he did this by taking someone who may oppose his idea if Franklin puts it forward himself and getting that person involved in formulating the idea. This would give ownership of the idea to someone who might otherwise oppose it just because of where the idea came from. In our practice, we can try to do the same thing. For example, in negotiations, if we know that the defense will oppose anything that we propose, maybe we could set up a phone conference where proposals could be worked out together. This could work whether we’re setting depositions in a truck wreck case or if we’re negotiating discovery releases in an industrial collapse. The only thing to remember is that as long as our goals get accomplished, it doesn’t necessarily matter who accomplishes them.

Finally, Ben Franklin was trusted because of his high level of integrity. When meeting with the King of France and trying to secure funding for the American Revolution, it would have been easy for Franklin to cow tow to the King and try to say Americans didn’t have a problem with all kings, just the one they were revolting against. But he didn’t do that. Instead, one night before dinner he sat down to play chess with the French King and removed both king pieces off the board. He followed that by saying, “In America, we don’t have use for Kings.” This straight-forward approach, while still not being insulting, gained him significant trust with everyone he worked with. We must be the same way. I’m proud to say that we are. If we tell a client something, they can count on that being the 100% truth. If we tell an insurance defense lawyer that we’re ready to take a truck wreck case to trial, they can count on that 100% being the truth. If we tell a referring lawyer that we will do something, they can count on that 100% being the truth. Honesty is the best policy. It’s how Ben Franklin earned trust, and it’s how we do too.

Ben Franklin is one of the most intriguing Founding Fathers of all. He was very young at the time of the Revolution, but arguably nobody achieved more in more different areas of society than anyone else. By taking a few tips from his life and how he built success, we can become a better law firm. 

Bailey & Oliver Law Firm is located at 3606 W. Southern Hills Blvd., Rogers, AR.  Our office is located just west of I-49 at exit 81 (Pleasant Grove Road).  (479) 202-5200.