What It Takes to Be A Great Trial Lawyer – Part 4

A Great Trial Lawyer Takes Time to Think

It is easy to get lost in the daily grind of litigation. The phone constantly rings. The computer’s “ding” tells us that another email has arrived. Each piece of mail brings another task and another deadline. Each fax brings bad news, especially those faxes that arrive after hours.

It is easy to fall into a reactive mode and then find yourself scrambling to do what you should have done long before. Deadlines get extended or outright missed. Interrogatory answers are incomplete. Your opponent’s ridiculous objections to discovery go unchallenged. You think about the need for a particular type of expert later than you should and end up using the only one you can find because the “good” ones are too busy to work on a short time-table. Your failure to follow a scheduling order results in your client’s case being continued to a date six months later, and then she gets in another car wreck and injures the same body part. And so on.

Great trial lawyers avoid this by taking time to think. They identify issues early, and create an action plan to address those issues and reduce the likelihood of harm to their client’s case. They delegate work to other competent persons to ensure it is done in a timely fashion. And they use the action plan to cause their opponents to react. In other words, great trial lawyers stay on offense, whether they represent plaintiffs or defendants.

And how do great lawyers take time to think? They leave the office. Or they turn off their phone. They find some way to focus on each case for a long enough period to time identify issues and figure out how they can be addressed. And they do that often enough in each case to stay at least one step ahead of their opponent at all times, even if their opponent is a great trial lawyer.

I have had this discussion with many lawyers over the years. A frequent response is “but my case load is such that I don’t have time to think.” And that is the topic of the next post.

The other "Great Trial Lawyer" posts