What It Takes To Be A Great Trial Lawyer – Part 17

The Willingness and Ability To Delegate.

It is not impossible to be a great trial lawyer on your own, with no help from anyone.  But I don’t know one.

At a minimum a great trial lawyer needs an extremely competent secretary, one who can think for the lawyer  and keep that plates spinning when the lawyer is otherwise occupied.

But a strong argument can be made that even more help is needed.  The attributes identified in this series are many and diverse, and require a substantial amount of time and energy.  It is virtually impossible to be a great trial lawyer without the assistance of at least one other competent lawyer and/or paralegal.   More may be required, depending on the caseload.

Many tasks mentioned in this series can be delegated to another competent person.  It is not necessary for a great trial lawyer to draft complaints, answers, or discovery.  A great trial lawyer need not take depositions.  Indeed, a friend of mine who lost his life at an early age secondary to brain cancer but achieved the status of a great trial lawyer before his death called witnesses to the stand he never met.  How?  He had an experienced investigator (a former state trooper who was bright, diligent, and personable) prepare witnesses for trial .  They worked together for so long that the lawyer was comfortable calling a witness on direct who was fully prepared by someone else.  I know it worked for him – we tried a case together and I saw it work.

Thus, a great trial lawyer may choose to surround himself or herself with people who share his or her dedication and values and work with them to prepare and try cases.   The trick is finding the right people, training them, and then being willing to let go of the work.  Each of those things is a challenge, especially the last one.  It is hard to let go of the work, especially the work you enjoy.  I recall  a discussion with a friend from Kansas City, asking him how he could allow others in his office to take depositions for him in his significant cases.  I said, "Aren’t you worried that they will makes mistakes?"  He said, "When was the last time you took a deposition and didn’t make a mistake?  Of course they will make mistakes.  And the mistakes they make may be different than the ones you make.  But with proper preparation you can overcome their mistakes, just like you can overcome your own."   

Once again, great trial lawyers figure out what level of delegation works for them.  Most learn that they deliver the best service to their clients – and improve the quality of their own life – if they delegate work to others.