Vail Daily column: Chairlift lessons on the law |

Vail Daily column: Chairlift lessons on the law

A sixth sense triggers your internal powder alarm and you groggily raise the blinds to bask in the glory of a sea of white. The morning routine is expedited and soon you find yourself amongst the hordes descending upon the resort. Despite your early arrival, the line is already out of the maze. Although endeavoring to remain calm, you are despondent as you contemplate missing that one mythical untouched line because you enjoyed your coffee for three extra minutes. The feeling is akin to realizing that you are about to become embroiled in a legal conflict: optimistic but regretting the choices that brought you to this point. The first lesson about litigation is gleaned before even getting onto the lift and is twofold: One, be earlier and more prepared than even your most conservative estimate, and two, Zen patience is the key to escaping mentally unscathed.


The lift starts spinning and the pent-up energy of the crowd releases in hoots and hollers. As the masses shuffle forward, another teaching moment is revealed: A chair or two is not going to make a difference, just as a couple thousand dollars here or there are not much in the grand scheme of life. Certainly, it is not worth getting into a legal or literal scrape over your overzealous maneuvering, so just chill out and life will be much better.

On a crowded ski day and in legal matters, efficiency and education are key. In order to make sure that the chairs are full and waiting is kept to a minimum, refrain from lollygagging and talking on your phone oblivious to your surroundings. Know the capacity of the lift and if there are any other factors that may make loading more challenging, like a magic carpet at the loading zone (which is actually easier than moving yourself, even though people still inexplicably struggle). Whether prosecuting or defending a lawsuit, focus the matter so that the trier of fact does not become distracted by extraneous details. An efficient attorney will not only keep attention on the critical facts, but will also save the client unnecessary expense and time. The time and money saved not mounting a scattershot defense can be devoted toward the worthy causes of research and review. It is imperative that a litigator intuitively understand the legal and factual positions of both sides of the dispute.

Riding the lift and engaging in a lawsuit are both interactive affairs that call for full and open communication. At the very least, acknowledge your lift partner; not doing so is awkward and rude. Actual banter is preferable and is often parts enlightening and entertaining. On the legal side, the most critical component of the attorney-client relationship is a thorough and honest dialogue. Candor allows the lawyer to effectively evaluate the matter and prevents him or her from being blindsided at a date too late to effectively mitigate the bad facts.


Like a stool at a bar near the courthouse, the chairlift is a place where the truth gets stretched and gossip is strewn. I have heard or overheard all manner of claims about the skiing prowess of fellow liftgoers or their alleged insider insights into terrain. Nobody likes a know-it-all, unless that person really has useful knowledge. Just as when you speak with your attorney, keep your ears open to advice and you may pick up a helpful tip from a friendly local. As to rampant innuendo, the chairlift is just like our small community: You never know who is listening and that one comment can come back to haunt.

The chairlift is the perfect time to dig into the peanut butter and jelly sandwich that you packed in your pocket. Cheap, delicious, portable and packed with energy, it is the perfect ski day meal. Unfortunately, you cannot pay your legal bills with PB&Js, but it is critical to find a source of sustenance for litigation because it is a long haul temporally, financially and emotionally.

As you prepare to disembark the chairlift, be sure to check that all of your pockets are secure and your equipment is good to go. Once you slide down the unloading ramp, you will be subsumed by the frenzy of a powder day. Trial is an equally frenetic time, one when it is essential to ensure that your mind is properly fixated, that your presentation tools interface with those in the courtroom, and that you have planned for all eventualities and contingencies. It is all downhill from there.

T.J. Voboril is a partner at Reynolds, Kalamaya & Voboril LLC, a local law firm, and the owner-mediator at Voice Of Reason Dispute Resolution. For more information, contact Voboril at 970-306-6456, or visit

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