Panic codes – “Buddy”

This is the 3rd and final post about panic at the mock jury research. Things happen. Bad things. Some are technical, some may involve the client, and some may involve the mock jurors. But, there are things about which some people would panic, which are better discussed outside the presence of the clients or mock jurors and only amongst members of the trial consulting team. Many years ago, we devised a protocol, called the “Buddy” procedure, to implement when something bad happens. Under this protocol, if something arises demanding my or Melissa’s attention, away from the clients, the team member is to say, for example, “Melissa, Buddy called; may I speak with you about that?” This signals Melissa to break away quickly from the client to speak with the team member. A few client issues come to mind in this regard. I’ll never forget hearing an associate tell me, “I wrote the script, but the partner who will be presenting the argument only saw it last night on the flight.” This is a red flag and Melissa needed to know it. “Buddy” intervened so that she and I could discuss it to minimize the negative impact of a presenter being unprepared. Not being prepared might be the subject of another post sometime, but, suffice it to say that when a presenter is not prepared, his/her side of the case will get “cheated” and the likelihood is high that the research schedule will be destroyed because the presenter failed to practice the words to be spoken and the PowerPoint (or other) presentation materials. In the incident I’m remembering – that is exactly what happened. Okay, so who is Buddy? Buddy was a successful trial lawyer in Miami who, in retirement, spent time helping us in many ways. (See We smile when we think of him and we are grateful that he is still with us, especially in stressful times. He was cool under fire!

As David mentioned, we at Magnus had the privilege to work with the late Buddy Payne first, as a client, and then, upon his retirement from the practice of law, as our very own advisor.  Although Buddy passed away many years ago, his spirit is still among us, from the beautiful ring he gave me that I wear every day, to the use of his name as our secret code when things go wrong on research days.  All of Magnus’ staff have been trained to know that, if they really want to get my attention, all they have to do is say “Buddy called” and I will excuse myself from whatever I am doing with our clients and leave the room, quickly.  Lest the reader think we only invoked the “Buddy rule” after he passed away, I will assure you it was used during his lifetime.  I suggested its use, due to the fact that, after Buddy retired, he never attended any mock trials with the Magnus team.  When I mentioned this idea to him, he laughed in knowing his name would be our forever panic code.  Buddy Payne was one of my favorite people and certainly, among my all time favorite clients, but believe me when I say that, whenever I hear one of my staff members say, “Buddy called,” I dread the message that he, supposedly, will relay.  This being said, it is preferable, in my opinion, to have a reliable panic code than to hear a staff member scream, in clients’ presence, that all “you know what” is breaking loose just outside the door.  Let’s hope “Buddy” won’t call anytime soon!


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