HOW A YOUNG TRIAL LAWYER GREW UP
(The HUGE Competitive Advantage that ALL Plaintiffs’ Lawyers Must Exploit)
It was a young lawyer’s first trial…and I was scared to death.
Just a couple of years out of law school, my big chance to try my first case was offered by the senior partner at my old law firm. Not knowing any better, I jumped at the chance without giving it a second of thought.
The stakes were high—the case involved the wrongful death of a 39-year old male who was survived by his wife. And two of the premier medical malpractice trial lawyers were defending the case.
As I prepared for the trial, I poured my heart into reading the deposition transcripts and meeting with expert medical witnesses and I was starting to feel good about my chance of winning the trial. But I was on my own—no partner to help guide me and not even a paralegal to help with the exhibits and transportation of expert witnesses.
A Scary Revelation for a Young, Inexperienced Lawyer
Just two days before the trial was set to begin, I was pouring through the case file for what seemed like the twentieth time when it dawned on me. I was being sent to the slaughter! No, it wasn’t that the case was marginal or the proof was weak—I was completely inexperienced at trial work and my client put all of her trust in me to win her case. Anxiety and worry began overwhelming my mind until I couldn’t think of anything else.
Later on the Saturday before trial one of the senior partners happened to bump into me in the hallway of our office and asked how things were going with my trial preparation. I was brutally honest—“I don’t have the experience to try this case.” I explained that the two defense lawyers were the best malpractice defense lawyers in the Capital District and I had next to no chance winning my first trial against them. The senior partner’s response shocked me.
The senior partner looked at me with a straight face and told me in a matter-of-fact way, “The way I look at things you’re about equal with them.” With a look of astonishment on my face, I asked for an explanation. And the senior partner said, “These defense lawyers each have twenty to thirty years of experience. They’ve got you beat there and there’s nothing you can do about it. But you’re about ten times better prepared for trial than they are…so the way I look at it, you’re about equal.”
A New Way of Looking at Things
Wow! The senior partner was right. I was ultra-prepared for the trial, had all of my witnesses and exhibits ready and the facts of the case were on my side. But it had never dawned on me before that I had an advantage over the defense lawyers and just maybe they were the ones who didn’t want to try the case against me.
And as things turned out, I was right. The elite defense lawyers showed up on the first day of trial woefully unprepared and all of a sudden they were anxious to settle the case. And deep down I know they knew how well prepared I was for trial. Shortly after jury selection, a fair offer was made and the case settled.
A Lesson in Life for a Young, Inexperienced Trial Lawyer
The key to becoming a great trial lawyer is PREPARATION, whether you’re young or old. Young trial lawyers have a huge advantage over their older adversaries simply by preparing ten-times better. It doesn’t take great oratorical skills to try a case—far more important is your level of preparation.
The next time you’re anxious about an upcoming trial remember one thing: your level of preparation will give you a big advantage over even the most skilled and experienced defense lawyer. And don’t let anxiety and stress get the best of you…there’s a good chance the defense lawyer is sweating even more.
photo credit: Business Meeting via photopin (license)