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Thomas W. Werner

Life Lessons Learned Along the Way: Lessons from the Road Goats


By Thomas W. Werner

We continue our series of personal, impactful stories that have shaped how we practice law.

A technical writer, a CrossFit enthusiast, two social workers, two engineers, an elementary school paraprofessional, a welder, a nurse/photographer, and an attorney/author all go to Jamaica. This may sound like the set-up to a long and elaborate joke and punchline, but this is no fictive narrative. This group of 10 stalwart travelers is real, as are the group’s adventures. 

Before 2020, each individual member of this group of friends (affectionately named “The Road Goats”) was a dedicated world-seer, traveling far and wide to experience much of what life has to offer. After the world effectively shut down in March, 2020, while all travel temporarily ceased, dreams of further experiences flourished. Over the course of the global Pandemic, The Road Goats began to come together, coalescing each individual’s separate dreams into one cohesive travel plan: a group trip to Jamaica.

As the complicated logistical planning commenced, it became clear that each Goat contributed in different ways. While some Goats showed strengths in big-picture vision, others revealed their talents in handling minute details, while still others kept their focus on finances, ensuring that the plans ultimately made were affordable for all.

When the date for the trip finally arrived in June, 2021, all of the Goats’ immense planning and preparation resulted in smooth traveling, followed by stress-free participation in various planned excursions. Those excursions themselves demonstrated another strength of the group at-large: pushing each individual Goat outside of our respective comfort zones, while simultaneously ensuring that each of us had the best possible time. 

The excursion that best demonstrated the cohesive power of The Road Goats was the climbing of Dunn’s River Falls. Upon arrival at the Falls, climbers descend down stairs to a white sandy beach that I would describe as beautiful – if I hadn’t had my eyes trained the entire time on the 180-feet tall rise of the Falls itself, a rise covered with multiple levels of wet, slippery rocks. I, to say the least, would never describe myself as “a natural climber.” So bereft was I of climbing experience that as a child, I never so much as even climbed a tree. As I looked up and up and up the Falls I was to climb, I thought, “Where’s the handrail?” and “How the heck am I supposed to get back up there?” and “I hope I don’t die.”

Because you are reading this missive, you already know that my hope came true. I did not die. With the inspiration and help of all of my fellow Road Goats, I climbed. Hand-in-hand, we all climbed. We ascended from slippery wet rock #1 to slippery wet rock #2, and from there to slippery wet rock #3, and so on. When one of us stumbled, another was there to pull us to safety. When one of us tired, another was there to inspire us to keep going. At the end of the climb, we all as a group looked back down from whence we came, and I was finally able to appreciate the beauty of the white sandy beach where we’d started. I was proud to consider all of us true Road Goats.

Just as I’ve been proud for the past 11 years to be part of another fantastic group, my practice group. As with the Road Goats, our group has a diverse array of practitioners with various talents. Over those 11 years, I’ve come to know the strengths of each group member. When I have a question about the procedures in a pending appeal or the temperament of different judges, I can always go to Kate Klaus and Jesse Roth. When I have a question about ethics relating to my attorney clients, I can always go to David Saperstein and Steve Wolock. To discuss coverage issues within my cases, Julie Mayer stands ready with advice. To discuss strategies for settling cases or dealing with tricky discovery issues or malcontent opposing counsel, I turn to Rick Mitchell, Cody Corbin, and our erstwhile paralegal Leanne Tarasiewicz.  For the biggest issues of all, I know that Harvey Heller is always there with helpful advice. Throughout the past 11 years, each and every member of our group has helped me navigate and rise above myriad cases that were each at least as potentially treacherous as Dunn’s River Falls. And I am grateful to each and every one of them.

In our second article this month, NLRB Proposed Rule Change Would Expand Joint Employer Status, Richard Mitchell discusses the potential liability of proposed new NLRB rules.