Know When To Play Possum

Trial by Nature #8 - Tips to Survival in the Courtroom

Hognose snakes cannot be beat at “playing possum.” This reptile is so theatrical, it will literally stage its own murder by spewing blood and smelly fluid from its mouth and anus while writhing in feigned painful last breaths.

Apparently, its predators are often more interested in killing it than eating it.

The horned lizard has a similar morbid skill. It actually shoots blood out of its eyes when threatened. The macabre shocks its predator. Apparently, the blood also stinks, ruining the predator’s appetite. (To be clear, I do not recommend stinking out opposing counsel as a trial strategy.)

To the point, my recommendation relating to the hognose snake and horned lizard is “playing possum” isn’t always a bad idea. It bleeds (no pun intended) over into the camouflage octopus and swimming elephant theories. If you aren’t seen, respected or appreciated as a contender, you may be holding a distinct advantage.

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. Is opposing counsel convinced you will settle at the courthouse? Are you being underestimated? Are there essential facts the other side missed? If so, perhaps you play dead for now and spit blood from multiple orifices later.

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Trial by Nature Tip #10 – Guard Your Egg

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.”

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