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Young Lawyers Column: So You Want to be a Trial Lawyer...

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Nevada Lawyer Magazine
“law firm partners, other associates, opposing counsel, judges, mediators, clients, witnesses, court reporters, clerks and staff can be excellent evaluators of your performance as you attempt to get the hang of things.”
young lawyers
by PAOlA ARMeNI, Young Lawyers Chair
so You Want to Be a tRiaL LaWYeR…
Some lawyers never want to see the inside of a courtroom. Then there are others, like myself, who couldn’t imagine the practice of law any other way. Trial work is exhausting, but at the same time exhilarating. There is nothing like being in front of a jury and convincing them the verdict must be returned in your favor. This month I have included a couple of tips that I hope will help you develop into the trial lawyer you want to be. as your case develops; however, determining your theme and theory from the start will assist you in developing the case. For example, once you have determined your theme and theory, you will be able to develop a line of questioning for witnesses in depositions or hearings wherein you can move your theme and theory forward for trial.
1. The Law is Always Changing
The law is constantly changing so, stay abreast of the current rules, statutes and case law. As a trial lawyer, there will be issues with which you will be confronted before, during and at the end of trial. If you have taken the time to research potential issues in advance, you will be able to counter your opponent at a drop of the hat.
4. Observe, Observe, Observe
Watch for opportunities to observe experienced trial lawyers in action. You’ll see different styles and be able to note what seems effective and not so effective. If you work in a firm with several lawyers, see if your schedule permits you to go and watch hearings and trials; or sit in on depositions, mediations, judicial conferences and even client interviews. If you’re on your own, check with the clerk’s office for upcoming trials to watch.
2. Prepare for Trial – Day One
Preparing for trial day one will always keep you ahead of your case. This will assist you in getting your case on the right track from square one. You do not want to wait until you know that you are going to trial before you start preparing. You may miss the opportunity to get valuable information about your case that will be lost with the passage of time. Being prepared for trial early on will also assist you in negotiations and settlement of the case, as you will have an in-depth understanding of the pros and cons of your case.
5. Over-Preparing is a Good Investment of Time
Trial lawyers put their hearts and souls into their trial work. You must be prepared – very prepared. As a young lawyer, the chances are that your opponents are always going to be wiser and more experienced, so the only way for you to hold your own is to know your case inside and out. Do not walk into that courtroom without knowing the good, the bad and the ugly about your case.
3. Theme and Theory
Develop the theme and theory of your case early on. Keep in mind your theme and theory may change
6. Evidence
Learn the evidence code. The evidence code has the potential to allow you to retain pertinent evidence and, perhaps more importantly, boot out the
Nevada lawyer
December 2011
evidence which is harmful to your case. Always bring an evidence book to court with you. I keep a pocket evidence book in my purse at all times. You never know when you will need it.
7. Opposing Counsel is Not the Devil
Opposing counsel has a job to do just like you. They are advocates just like you. They believe in their case just like you. Disputes with opposing counsel are the nature of the beast. So, do not take it personally and do not get personal!
8. Don’t Assume Your Client’s Story is Gospel
Explain to your client how crucial it is that he or she tells you the truth; but you don’t want to have to rely solely your client’s word. Unfortunately, your client’s story is not always 100 percent accurate. Do your own factfinding to verify your client’s story. Talk to witnesses early in the case; use discovery to screen what your client tells you.
9. Keep Learning
Becoming a good trial lawyer comes from experience. After each trial, reflect back on what you could have done differently. Don’t use this reflection to be hard on yourself; use it to motivate yourself to be a better trial lawyer.
10. Embrace Feedback
Law firm partners, other associates, opposing counsel, judges, mediators, clients, witnesses, court reporters, clerks and staff can be excellent evaluators of your performance as you attempt to get the hang of things. Their comments may sometimes be harsh, but seek and use those comments. Remember, all feedback is good feedback, even if it’s bad.
December 2011
Nevada lawyer
This document is © 2011 by jsmith22 - all rights reserved.
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