IS THIS A DEPOSITION WHICH I SEE BEFORE ME?
For many, the idea of an unexpected
phone call in the middle of the night
evokes fear. Who’s been arrested? Is
someone hurt and in the hospital? Or in
the case of Shakespeare’s Othello, “Who
has married my daughter in secret?” But
for Dallas attorney Michael P. Maslanka,
an especially early morning phone call in
1981 meant good fortune.
Board Certified Personal Injury Trial Law* Board Certified Civil Trial Law* American Board of Trial Advocates (ABOTA)
CATASTROPHIC PERSONAL INJURY
tough economy, says Maslanka. The job
offer meant a chance for him to do what
he loved: employment law.
Today he looks back on nearly 30 years
in law. In January, he opened a Dallas
office of his firm, Constangy Brooks &
Smith. To Maslanka, employment law
is a fascinating mixture of intellectual
challenge and human nature. “Human
beings make up companies and human
beings make mistakes. They often beat
themselves up over it to no good end.
Part of representation is helping to give
them a second chance, to place things in
context,” he says.
Maslanka has a rather unlikely legal
inspiration: William Shakespeare. In
Shakespeare’s plays, which Maslanka
studies, a perfect character doesn’t exist.
But he says: “My favorite characters are
Shakespeare’s women, especially two
in what I call his justice plays, Measure
for Measure and The Merchant of Venice.
Isabella and Portia, like most women,
get things done while the men dither.
The women are also the truth tellers.
Look at Othello and its female characters
Desdemona and Emilia. They are the
The characters he likes are practical,
smart and admirable, but he says they
are not any more perfect than other
characters. Studying them has helped
Maslanka develop what he calls an
attorney’s most powerful tool: empathy.
“I am not there to judge [my clients],” says
Maslanka. “I want to understand them.”
When lawyers understand that they
are no better or worse than the clients
they deal with, he says, that’s when they
are most effective. He adds, “When one
holds themselves to the high standard
of perfection, that’s when we lose
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*By the Texas Board of Legal Specialization