Articles Tagged with trial advocacy skills

Elliott Wilcox shares another great post from his Winning Trial Advocacy Tips blog.  I know I rant and rave about how wonderful this blog is and I fear I may be accused of a man-crush on Elliott, a gentleman I have never spoken with, much less met.  But there is so much crap spread by those who think that they know something about trial preparation and trial advocacy that when someone actually shares something of value I feel compelled to applaud it – loud and often.  Elliott gets it and, more importantly, he shares it.

The latest cheer goes out for a post titled "How to Detect Non-Answers During Cross-Examination."  Here is an excerpt:

To become a quality cross-examiner, you must master the ability to critically listen to  witness’s answers and identify the weaknesses, fallacies, and evasions in their responses. 

Those of you over 30 will remember James Carville’s message to the Clinton campaign in 1992:  "It’s about the economy, stupid."  

Well, trying cases is about persuading jurors to your client’s point of view. Sure, you must prove-each-element-of-your-cause-of-action-by-a-preponderance-of-the-evidence, but you must do so in a way that keeps the jury engaged, that motivates them to act favorably to your client.

Maxwell Kennerly, one of my favorite bloggers, has written a great post on this subject.  He explains that a trial lawyer must

Paul Luvera does a nice job in this post  hitting the high points of David Ball’s book Ball on Damages.  

An excerpt: 

[W]e must shed our law school training about advocacy and learn to present cases consistent with the way that people really make decisions. You were probably taught in law school to carefully examine all of the facts and law, following which you were expected to analyze intellectually in order to arrive at the right decision. You were probably taught to speak and write as an intellectual or like a scholar might. Law students try to sound like intellectuals to impress everyone. The problem with approaching a trial in that manner is that it doesn’t work when we are talking about groups of people we call jurors..

Some of you are a little young to remember Irving Younger, the great trial advocacy teacher.  Professor Younger developed the "10 Commandments of Cross Examination" that were taught in trial advocacy programs across the country for many, many years.

Experienced trial lawyers would take issue with some of Younger’s  commandments, arguing that from time to time they should be ignored.  I agree, but that does not mean that they do not have value.  

Here is a copy for your reading pleasure.

Winning Trial Advocacy Tips is one of the best blogs for trial lawyers in the entire blogosphere.  Elliott Wilcox repeatedly delivers useful, timely information of interest to those of us who try cases.  I encourage you to add it to your regular reading list.

Today, I share with you his post of tips to keep your witnesses happy and gain their cooperation.  He is, as usual, dead-on.  Ignore his advice at your peril.

An excerpt: 

Once again we turn to Paul Luvera for guidance on some aspect of trial practice.  Paul is an extraordinary lawyer who is kind enough to share his knowledge with us on a regular basis via his Plaintiff Trial Lawyer Tips blog.

This time, Paul shares his method of organizing for trial in non-complex cases.  

An excerpt:

I am an optimist.   Nevertheless, I attempt to have a "Plan B" in the event things go wrong.

For example, consider a case that Rebecca Blair and I tried a few years ago.  We needed a computer in the courtroom.  But because both of us have been around long enough to know that  things can go wrong, we brought a back-up computer with the same information loaded on it that we had loaded on Computer 1.

Computer 1 died.  No problem.  Plug in Computer 2.  It worked for a day or so.  Then it died.  A third computer was brought from the office with relatively little downtime (we had the info we needed on a CD) and it survived until the end of trial.

Once again, Winning Trial Advocacy Tips has an excellent article for those of us who try cases.

Here is an excerpt:

There’s something strange about how our brains work.  For some reason, our brains don’t seem to comprehend the word “Don’t” very well.  In fact, our brains have the power to completely ignore that single word while still hearing every other word in the statement.  It happens on a subconscious level.  When we hear the word “Don’t,” we ignore that word and follow the rest of the command.  If you’ve ever coached sports, you probably noticed the difference between telling an athlete, “Don’t miss this shot” vs. “You’re going to make this shot.”  When you tell players, “Don’t miss this shot,” they’re more likely to miss.  For some reason, “Don’t” gets lost in the shuffle, leaving only the command: “MISS THIS SHOT!”

 Winning Trial Advocacy Tips continues to be a great source of information for those of us who try cases.  This post, called "The Proper Use of Notes," does a fine job explaining how – and how not – to use notes at trial.

An excerpt:

When preparing the notes that you’ll bring to court, instead of writing out a word-for-word script, write down only what you need. Rather than full sentences, use brief phrases or single words. Besides, when you’re in the heat of trial, your eyes won’t easily focus on full sentences like “Mrs. Johnson, would you please tell us how you know the defendant?” All you’ll really need is a quick reminder, like “RELATIONSHIP?” or “KNOWS DEFENDANT?” to prompt the correct question.