The other day opposing counsel in a case challenged me for having written in a letter that we would litigate the case according to the principle of “murum aries attigit.” Now, I want to make it clear that I did not invent this term, nor was I the first to use it in the litigation context. I want to give credit where credit is due. The first attorney (that I know of) to have used this term in the civil litigation context is First Amendment Lawyer, Marc Randazza.
So anyhow, I often get a strong reaction from attorneys and other opponents alike, when I include this language in a letter, so I wasn’t surprised. Yet, I don’t include this phrase in correspondence strictly to get a reaction–I do it because that phrase represents my philosophy on litigation.
Before I tell you what the term means, let me give you a little background on me (I never share personal information about myself on this blog, but I’ll make an exception here because it’s important). I have loved Roman history and warfare (strategy) since I can remember. I have studied those topics intensely before, during, and after college. I am utterly fascinated by these subjects as well as rhetoric and memorization.
So while I was in college, among other books relating to Julius Caesar, I read the Commentaries on the Gallic War. There, Caesar described the principle of “murum aries attigit,” which literally means the “The Ram Has Touched the Wall.” It referred to a Roman policy: surrender would be accepted before–but not after the battering ram touched a enemy’s city walls. Wikipedia explains the purpose behind the policy well: “The policy was to act as a deterrent against resistance to those about to be besieged. It was an incentive for anyone who was not absolutely sure that they could withstand the assault to surrender immediately, rather than face the possibility of total destruction.”
Although it is necessary to settle some cases, either because the client wants to resolve it early, or because the facts warrant it, the other side should know that once litigation begins–no surrender will be accepted. Some may say that this is “posturing” or merely “tough talk,” but I sincerely believe that if more attorneys employed this principle, and really meant it, we would all be better off. There would be fewer frivolous cases. People would think twice before “pulling the tiger’s tail.” And so I wholeheartedly endorse and believe in this principle and employ it in my practice.
[Note: A reader has suggested that this post implies that I coined the phrase, murum aries attigit. I did not come up with that term; and I never said in my post that I did. In fact, given that the term has been around for close to 2,000 years, I’m sure I wasn’t the first person to use the term in the litigation context (or any other context). Nor will I be the last. My point in writing the post was that if more people were aware of the principle, and actually followed it, fewer frivolous lawsuits would be filed.]
[Update]: In a previous version of this post I had not mentioned that Marc Randazza coined the phrase, M.A.A. in the litigation context. To give credit where credit is due, and to make things totally clear, I have updated this post (see the first paragraph). In other words, to use a more well-known latin phrase, mea culpa.