"Only do what only you can do." My mentor throughout the 1990s and 2000s used to say this to me, and it was one of the best lessons a CEO with a fast-growing company could hear.
The message was, of course, to stop trying to do too much myself and let other people do their part. Don't micromanage. Don't rescue. Don't interfere. Don't hover. And do let people learn by doing - even if it means making (small) mistakes. The overall message was to delegate responsibly.
Based on three decades of observing the world's best trial lawyers, I can confirm that the best trial lawyers are experts in delegation, whether they are first chair or fifth chair. However, many trial lawyers, particularly those with many members on a trial team, would benefit from better following the lead of the greats. The problems I've seen (and I bet you have too) are numerous.
- Because a trial lawyer can use PowerPoint, some insist on doing some or all of the litigation graphics. See, 12 Reasons Litigation Graphics are More Complicated Than You Think.
- Because they've lived with the case for years, many trial lawyers are anxious about conducting a mock trial or asking for feedback on their planned narrative. See, 50 Characteristics of Top Trial Teams and The First Version of Your Story Is NOT Your Best.
- Because they are capable of handling a million things at once, they get involved in the administrivia of the courtroom technology setup or insist on running a presentation. See, Trial Lawyers, Relinquish the Clicker and 12 Tips to Hire the Right Trial Technician for Your Trial.
- Because they have a history of writing opening statements the night before trial (or a hearing) they write them without the benefit of feedback or a fresh pair of eyes - and much more. See, 7 Reasons a Fresh Pair of Eyes Are Beneficial Before Trial.
An expert in riding horses, Justice Sandra Day O'Connor once said, "The really expert riders of horses let the horse know immediately who is in control, but then guide the horse with loose reins and seldom use the spurs." I think that is exactly right when it comes to management generally, and based on decades of watching the best trial teams operate, it's absolutely true when it comes to trial team management.
I'm really in love with our trial team self-assessment tool described in A2L's article, 10 Criteria that Define Great Trial Teams. A former colleague wrote about 7 Habits of Great Trial Teams. We have even released a book that shares many of the best practices we have seen great trial lawyers implement when it comes to leadership. All of those resources are free, and I encourage you to take advantage of them or share them with someone who should.
So, as you approach a large trial having hopefully followed some of our yearlong recommended best practices for heading to trial, ask yourself, "Am I doing what only I can do, or am I doing work that others can do (even if they do it differently than me)?"
Other free resources from A2L focused on trial team management, best practices of great trial lawyers, and effective trial preparation include:
- Get the benefit of a fresh pair of eyes, get some help with litigation graphics for opening, or plan a mock trial.
- 9 Ways to Kill Groupthink Before It Kills Your Case
- 10 Criteria that Define Great Trial Teams
- 50 Characteristics of Top Trial Teams
- The 14 Most Preventable Trial Preparation Mistakes
- How Creative Collaboration Can Help a Litigation Team
- The 13 Biggest Reasons to Avoid Last-Minute Trial Preparation
- In-House Counsel's Role In Keeping Litigator Ego In Check
- Sample One-Year Trial Prep Calendar for High Stakes Cases
- 7 Things In-House Misses When Litigation Consultants are Underutilized
- 5 Things TED Talks Can Teach Us About Opening Statements
- Winning BEFORE Trial - Part 2 - Parallel Trial Preparation Tactics
- 25 Things In-House Counsel Should Insist Outside Litigation Counsel Do
- 9 Things Outside Litigation Counsel Say About In-house Counsel
- 9 Things In-House Counsel Say About Outside Litigation Counsel
- 3 Trial Preparation Red Flags That Suggest a Loss is Imminent