The Russian Dog Theory of Litigation

Mar 9th, 2020

By Barry Landy

A Fable by Barry Landy (with apologies to Aesop)

Gentle Readers:

I propose to regale you with a fable.

Once upon a time, a long dead and forgotten Czar of Russia declared a pogrom in the Pale of Settlement, which was a western region of Imperial Russia that existed from 1791 to 1917, in which permanent residency by Jews was allowed.

The pogrom was pretty straight-forward, as these things go, and understandably made the Jews in the fictional town of Mestechki very anxious; so much so that they dispatched the town’s esteemed Rabbi to attend at the Czar’s court to plead for mercy.

Upon being ushered into the Czar’s exalted presence, the Rabbi noticed a beautiful Borzoi puppy and before the Czar could say a word, the Rabbi said “Your Excellency, what a handsome dog. You know, I can teach your dog to speak fluent Russian, if you want”.

Whereupon the Czar responded: “You are completely crazy!”

But the Rabbi persisted: “Your Highness, I am most assuredly not crazy. I can teach your dog to speak fluent Russian. But as you know, it takes a Russian child 3 years to speak fluent Russian; I will need 4 years for the dog to become completely fluent. I only have one favour to ask in return and that is that you call off the pogrom and spare the good people of Mestechki.”

To this the Czar responded, “Very well, take my beloved Borzoi, teach him to speak fluent Russian and I will temporarily call off the pogrom: But mark my words: If that dog does not speak fluent Russian in 4 years, you and all the other Jews of Mestechki will be put to the sword”.

Whereupon the Rabbi immediately picked-up the dog and hastened back to the small village from whence he had been dispatched.

And of course, news of the Rabbi’s dealings with the Czar reached the village well before the Rabbi did. So it came to pass that when the Rabbi finally arrived home, he was met with a fretful delegation of village elders, all of whom assaulted him with more or less the same words: “Are you crazy? You can’t teach a dog to speak fluent Russian. Clearly in 4 years we are all going to die a horrible death”.

To which the sage Rabbi replied “Four years, four years, a lot can happen in four years. The Czar can die, the dog can die…”

And what is the lesson of this little tale? Given sufficient time, a lot of things can happen during a litigation battle, including the totally unexpected. Outcomes that appear inevitable or preordained may not occur. Sometimes, developing a strategy, even if it is far-fetched amounts to a winning strategy. And not giving up, even in the face of heavy odds, is often the very best strategy.

Lawyers can help!