My 93 year old grandmother (“Mamaw”) rarely disappoints. We recently replaced her flip phone with a smartphone. We insisted she let us teach her how to use it. Steadfast and stubborn as ever, she refused.

“I ALREADY know how to use a phone,” she protested.

Exasperated with her persistence, my Aunt was over it. “Fine, Mom. Show us how YOU would use this phone?”

Lifting the phone to her ear with confidence, Mamaw replied, “I would say — ‘Hello’?’”


Douglas Horton said, “the art of simplicity is the puzzle of complexity.” (To be honest, I have no idea who Douglas Horton is, but I like the quote.) The salient point is this: for all the networking, cellular data, SIM cards and other complex engineering involved, you really only need to know how to dial and answer. “Hel-lo?”

Lawyers often get caught up in background data, “engineering” behind the scenes, and superfluous details.“Thorough” is important. Yet, depending on how you define “thorough,” it can also be expensive. Efficient advocates are contextually “thorough.” Good lawyers  recognize and prioritize relevancy.

Along the lines of being relevant, jurors and judges don’t really care about the piles of data you  amass or your level of intelligence. Like Mamaw, they really only need information, facts and instruction relevant to what they are being asked to decide — in the context of how they need it.

So, how do you go about sharing the clarity and wisdom of Mamaw with your jurist?

Be relevant from the beginning and appreciate the context of your case. So many attorneys ignore jury instructions until halfway through trial. Why?

Start where your most critical  decision makers will end. In North Carolina, we have Pattern Jury Instructions drafted by a committee largely consisting of our judiciary. Guess what? They see our other decision makers – our jurors – regularly. Like. Every. Single. Day.

HINT: The Pattern Jury Instructions are a pretty big deal. Yet they are an untapped resource few attorneys consider until facts are developed and the case is essentially over. This is a mistake. Jury instructions should be the framework of your case. Most judges have them memorized. (Recall they usually draft them? If not, see above paragraph.)

Jurors are admonished to follow the instructions given by the judge. Designed to be a simple, straightforward recitation of the law, the Pattern Jury Instructions can make case synthesis easy and efficient for everyone involved by defining relevancy and establishing context early.

In other words, you don’t really need to know about all the features of a smartphone to use it effectively. You could just use it.
Ignore the apps,
features, details and additions. It will still be a phone and you can still use it to communicate. Perhaps more simply.



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