Control What You Can Control

  • January 06, 2021
  • Christine Kilby


If 2020 has done nothing more than reveal how little control we have over our lives, that would be lesson enough. We humans believe that we have the power to impact things that are in fact subject to myriad external influences. Nowhere is this better exemplified than litigation. Although lawyers advise us well with precedents and risk analyses, the justice of our cause is compelling. We pay lip service to the potential for problems to arise, but in truth, we put great stock in the strategies we craft, forgetting the words of Scottish poet Robert Burns in his poem, “To a Mouse”:

The best laid schemes o’ Mice an’ Men

          Gang aft agley,

An’ lea’e us nought but grief an’ pain,

          For promis’d joy!

Loosely translated,[1] Burns is saying that even the most carefully prepared plans often go awry, leaving us disappointed. In this poem, penned in 1785, Burns addresses a mouse whose nest he has mistakenly ploughed up, but he could certainly be speaking to a disappointed litigant at the end of a long case.