Elephants can swim – even the really big ones. Weighing up to 24,000 pounds, these magnificent animals are impressive in the water. The trunk becomes a snorkel. Huge feet transform into diving fins. While they lumber awkwardly on land, they glide effortlessly in water. It is almost as though they were meant to be there in the first place.
I’ve been lucky enough to meet and to observe many fantastic trial lawyers. Some have big personalities and extroverted style. Others can barely carry on a social conversation (or prefer not to).
Great trial lawyers do not have defined characteristics or specific traits. You don’t have to look a certain way or have a certain personality to be effective. You don’t even have to have good grades in law school or graduate from any specific program. You have, to be honest, genuine, deliberate and prepared. Really, you just need to care and the rest will follow. Caring makes all the difference.
On the other side, when sizing up your competition, never ever assume your opponent won’t be good in the courtroom because of your own biased viewpoint. Don’t assume a young lawyer won’t be a worthy opponent simply because you are more experienced. Likewise, don’t presume a senior lawyer won’t have the stamina for a long case. Never prejudge the man as the attorney and the woman as the secretary or expect the minority attorney to be defending the criminal case rather than prosecuting it.
Prejudging risks underestimation. Being underestimated provides a potent advantage. Adept counsel focus on the facts and not the opposition. Exceptional lawyers expect Famous Lawyer to show up every time.
Undoubtedly, you have heard “elephants never forget.” Along those lines, lawyers should never forget elephants can swim, even if they don’t look much like fish. In litigation, preconceived notions are often illusory and generally destructive.
Other Articles in the Series
We are responsible for ensuring the survival of our young lawyers. I cannot name one successful trial lawyer who did not receive coaching and mentoring from a more seasoned veteran. If you are one of the successful attorneys, by all means, “pay it forward.”read more
In the courtroom, timing is everything. Any “miss” is a costly one. Timing requires cadence. Execution of timing is one trial skill firmly rooted in pure experience.read more
In some cases, it may be productive to let your opponent speculate over your intentions. Never be dishonest, of course, but do be conscientious in your communication with the other side.read more
Unlike the wily octopus, trial lawyers often have the instinct to be seen. We often fail to analyze the power of subterfuge or selective presence.read more
Like the Dingo, great trial teams identify, cultivate and potentiate individual talent. Each member is aware of, and accountable for, their own responsibilities. Strategy is well-planned and practiced.read more
When developing impeachment, wall off all exit points and secure them well in advance, or you might be the one getting “schooled.”read more