Stereotypes are Dangerous

Trial by Nature #3 - Tips to Survival in the Courtroom

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

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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