I’ve written often about trial preparation -- and yet it seems like it’s never enough. I have a unique view of the litigation industry since I work with the absolute top-performing trial lawyers and with many other attorneys who aspire to be like them. What distinguishes the high performers from the mere aspirants is primarily their rigorous and intense preparation.
Long-time readers of this blog might remember some of the articles we’ve written to try to help good trial attorneys become great trial lawyers. Here are some of them:
- 50 Characteristics of Top Trial Teams
- 7 Habits of Great Trial Teams
- The 13 Biggest Reasons to Avoid Last-Minute Trial Preparation
- How Early-Stage Focus Groups Can Help Your Trial Preparation
- 25 Things In-House Counsel Should Insist Outside Litigation Counsel Do
- Sample One-Year Trial Prep Calendar for High Stakes Cases
- How Long Before Trial Should I Begin Preparing My Trial Graphics?
- How to Get Great Results From a Good Lawyer
and my absolute favorite in this trial preparation best-practices genre:
If I had to summarize these articles, it would be simply that great trial attorneys prepare much earlier and much harder and with much more openness, communication and curiosity than merely good trial lawyers. They are comfortable with technology. They understand how to develop a courtroom presence. They practice relentlessly. I see it all the time.
After several decades in this line of work, I have flagged a few phrases that signal that trouble is on the horizon. One classic is: “The client doesn’t want to pay for trial prep until they’re sure we are going to trial.”
Great trial lawyers know that by the time you know you are going to trial it is too late to prepare effectively. Thus they take an entirely different tack. They say they can’t work with you unless you allow us to prepare for trial when we need to, not when you think we should. And when the great trial lawyers get to trial, everything has been accounted and planned for.
And one of the reasons that everything has been accounted and planned for is that great trial lawyers realize that there are too many aspects of a big-ticket litigation for the first chair to handle all of them alone. The leaders spend their time where they add the most value. If they aren’t good organizers, they find someone who is a good organizer and give him or her the task of organizing everything. Thus they can ensure continuity and avoid panic.
As one of my favorite lawyers and clients used to say, “I never sleep better than when I’m starting a trial.” He used to say that because he knew that everything had been handled. And that’s what great trial lawyers do.