Here are a collection of thoughts and quotes which you may find inspirational and worth considering in your life and law practice.

  • Always say less than necessary.
  • Machiavelli has said: “It is better to be feared than loved.”
  • When asking for help, appeal to people’s self-interest; never their mercy or gratitude
  • Take action with boldness: everyone admires the bold; no one honors the timid. If you are unsure of what course of action, do not take action at all.
  • The Italian word “Spezzatura” refers to accomplishments seem that effortless. Strive for actions that seem natural and executed with ease. Performers who put too much effort in performing break the illusion
  • A Self fulfilling prophecy has been called “the strategy of the crown” Seeing in our mind, our goals accomplished involves a chain of cause and effect. If we believe we are destined for great things our belief will radiate just as a crown creates an aura around the King. Throughout history people have managed to work the strategy of the crown by believing so firmly on their goals that it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.
  • Master the art of timing: Be a detective of the right moment. Learn to stand back when the time is not right. Think of the Hawk as it patiently and silently circles in the sky high above until the right moment arrives. “There is a tide in the affairs of men, which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune; omitted, all the voyage of their life is in the shallows and in the miseries.” William Shakespeare
  • Distain the things you cannot change: ignoring them is the best revenge. By acknowledging a petty problem you give it existence and credibility. In the same way, the more attention you pay an enemy, the stronger you make him or her. The less interest you reveal, the more superior you seem. By showing distain or ignoring people you cancel them out.
  • In victory learn when to stop. The moment of victory is often the moment of greatest peril when arrogance and overconfidence can push you past the goal and by going too far and lose.
  • A Person must be big enough to admit mistakes, smart enough to learn from them and strong enough to correct them.
  • Effective advocacy is a matter of A,B,C: Be accurate, brief and clear – William Barton
  • Establish your credibility by being prepared, efficient and truthful. These are the attributes jurors admire the most – Lisa Blue
  • Trials are battles of impression, not logic. They are a tug of war for the minds of jurors – Paul Luvera
  • It’s not what the defendants have taken from the injured plaintiff, but rather what they left him or her with – Moe Levine
  • If you aren’t afraid, you don’t care. And if you don’t care, how can you ask a jury to care? Gerry Spence & Paul Luvera
  • We are no bigger than what it takes to make us angry
  • We are responsible for our feelings
  • Let into your circle only what you believe or accept about yourself
  • God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference


This post is for lawyers just starting a plaintiff’s practice. I want to outline the fundamentals of winning so they don’t get lost in all the complex discussions about psychology of trial. So, let’s look at some of the basics  observed by trial lawyers who win cases. Here are a collection of 12 rules which will improve your chances of winning a trial.

  1.  SIMPLIFY YOUR CASE The  most common mistake lawyers make is to over try and overcomplicate their case. How do you simplify a case? Number one: be able to state what your case is about in a single sentence. Think of the salesman’s “elevator pitch.” That is the ability of the salesman to pitch the product while in the elevator to the customer before it reaches the next floor. If you can’t describe your case in a simple manner you do not understand your case well enough to try it. Number two: make sure the evidence you decide to produce at trial supports the single central idea of your case. Number three: explain the defendant’s conduct through a unifying motive and intent. Number four: present your evidence in a chronological order using a timeline for jury assistance. Number five: simplification comes from preparation and organization. You will not be able to simplify the case unless you have it organized and prepared.
  2. APPEAL TO SELF INTEREST.   Keep in mind what motivates the jury. It is not concern for your client. It is the question in the jurors mind either consciously or self-consciously: “how does this case affect me, my family or my community?” Self-interest is what is the most important thing in the jurors mind. The number one way to make people listen is to show them what’s in it for them. That’s why the concept of appealing to the primitive brain is valid because the chief concern is survival and reproduction of the species. That’s why rules appeal to jurors because it involves self-interest when rules are not followed.
  3.  JURY SELECTION IS A CONVERSATION NOT AN INTERROGATION. Your goal in jury selection is to encourage discussion through questions about feelings and opinions. Its goal is not to disqualify jurors but to create a small group  motivated to listen to you because they trust you. Keep in mind personal zones of privacy when you stand in front of the jury. Stay back far enough to honor this factor.
  4. ANSWER THE JURORS UNEXPRESSED QUESTIONS: The jurors all have questions and you should answer them. These questions include what is this case about? Why has this lawsuit been brought and what does the plaintiff want? What does the defendant say? You should be the lawyer that answers the questions for them because they also look at who is telling them. They look for a leader, a teacher, a guide and someone they can trust. That should be you.
  5. OPENING STATEMENT SHOULD PAINT THE PICTURE OF YOUR CASE SIMPLY.  Opening statement is a time when you tell the jury why the lawsuit has been brought, what you are asking for and why and supports your case with the major evidence you will present. You may or may not decide to give them a figure you will ask for depending upon the circumstances of your case but you must  discuss damages and at least promise that you will show them how to appraise the damages at the end of the case. You need to discuss defenses and the evidence you will present in that regard. Your case should have a single theme and should be framed in the best possible way. The combination of jury selection and opening statement is the heart and soul of the case because people make up their minds very early in a trial and once having done so are slow to change their viewpoint.
  6. ALWAYS TELL A STORY  we know that everyone is mentally geared to listen to a story. Children say “tell me a story.” Someone on the phone says “have I got a story to tell you.” And they have our attention. Your case should be a story. One that is told from the beginning of the case through the entire case including cross-examination. Be a good storyteller and learn how to tell a story right.
  7.  REMEMBER THE IMPORTANCE OF NONVERBAL COMMUNICATION:  We know that nonverbal communication is probably more important than verbal communication. How we stand how we talk how we act all communicate more than the words we use. Where do we keep our hands? Are our gestures congruent with what we are saying? Is our stance open with our hands open to the jury? Nothing is more critical than eye contact. As long as the juror witness or judges talking we need to maintain eye contact. The greatest fault of most lawyers is talking too fast and too much. Remember timing and pauses. They are important.
  8. MAKE DIRECT EXAMINATION PERSONAL:  we need to learn to make our direct examination personal and not a stilted chronology. After we have the required identification information we  should explain why this witness has been called by a simple question to the witness such as: “you are the doctor who treated Joe Brown and are here to tell us about your medical conclusions and treatment correct?”  With non-expert witnesses one should consider a personal approach like “how do you feel right now?” Or “what is it you would like this jury to know. Try to make the witness human with some personal background and by your demeanor. Do not make it sound and look like a police interrogation of an accused. Always make a story.
  9. IN CROSS-EXAMINATION STICK WITH THE BIG POINTS.  Jurors are not interested in nitpicking attacks on witnesses. If you have a major impeachment point use it but don’t bother with the minor details which will make you look like you are wasting time and picking on a witness. Remember, cross examination doesn’t have to be cross. Your demeanor should be professional and generally courteous. Finger shaking is only for the movies.
  10. FINAL ARGUMENT NEED NOT BE LENGTHY TO BE PERSUASIVE  the key to winning cases is to make the case as simple and as persuasive as possible. Even lengthy trials do not necessarily require lengthy summation. If one has correctly told the story and consistently maintained the theme throughout the case then summation is the retelling of that story supported by key evidence. Damages should be explained in terms of past and future time periods. Economic damages should be carefully distinguished from non-economic damages. Jurors should understand that economic damages pays bills due others and it is only non-economic damages that represent justice for harm done. Therefore the damages appraised for non-economic harm represent pure justice. It is a sum of money which the jurors have found equals the harm done. That assessment is made without regard to the needs of the plaintiff, the wealth or poverty of the plaintiff or any other factor than the question: “is this sum of money equal to the total harm done to this person?”

These  are the basic rules for winning cases. They are not complicated, but they are valid. Good luck in applying them. They are important.


Here some random notes  from my argument notebook which you might find helpful.

In the case of the person with pre-existing injuries consider this argument. Suppose a farmer is on his way to market with a truckload of eggs valued at $.41 a dozen. The truck is hit by a careless driver and the eggs are broken. The law won’t allow the defendant driver to argue: “but if they were golf balls, none of them would have been damaged.”

Suppose the truck had a horse it was hauling when it was hit by the careless driver. How much should the defendant have to pay? It depends upon the kind of horse that was injured. Plow horses might sell Ford $250. Riding horses for $2000. Racehorses for $50,000. Whatever the value of what was taken away turns out to be, is the amount the defendant should pay. Well, what if instead of a horse there was a Rembrandt painting worth $1 million. The defendant is obligated to pay for the damage done. He should not be allowed to argue that it is unfair to have to pay full price. “How about paying half price” is not an acceptable argument in the law.

Pre-existing injuries aggravated by trauma can be argued like the farmers truck. It’s like a farmer driving his truck to market when another car runs a stop sign hits it and turns the truck over. The fenders of the truck are bent and the windows are broken. The jury is asked to fix the damages he’s entitled to.  the jury would want to restore the farmer to the truck he had before it was damaged. He’s not entitled to a new truck but is also not entitled to end up with the damage truck. A fair result is the cost of putting the truck back in the same condition it was before the collision.

Tom Lambert was the editor of the American trial lawyers Journal and its executive representative for many years. He was a great orator. Here are some of the quotes from talks Tom gave:

  • a fence at the top of the hill is better than an ambulance in the valley below
  • immunity breeds irresponsibility.
  • Technique without ideals is a menace; ideals without technique is a mess.
  • The best place to eliminate product related injuries is on the drawing boards.”

Moe Levine based his “whole man” argument on a passage from the New Testament 1 Corinthians 12 where it reads:

“So then, the I cannot say to the hand, I don’t need you. Nor can the head say to the feet, well I don’t need you…. and so, there is no division in the body, but all its different parts have the same concern for one another. If one part of the body suffers, all the other parts suffer with it; if one part is praise, all the other parts share its happiness.”

Here are some quotations from various sources which I’ve saved and which you might find useful in some context:

  • it was about as helpful as throwing a drowning man both ends of the rope
  • every person’s right to swing their fist stops at another person’s nose
  • snatching defeat from the jaws of victory
  • that is not a flag I would like to march under

Abraham Lincoln defending a client once told the jury:

“My client is like the man who was going along  the road with a pitchfork on his shoulder when he was attacked by a fierce dog that ran out from a farmers yard. He uses pitchfork to defend himself and in the process killed the dog. The outrage farmer demanded: “what made you kill my dog?” To which the man replied “what made your dog try to bite me?” The farmer retorted “why did you not try to go after him with the other end of the pitchfork?” To which the man responded “why did not the dog come after me with his other end?”

An analogy for circumstantial evidence is the story of Robinson Crusoe. Robinson found a footprint in the sand and at the side of it faded because he knew there was someone else on the island where he had thought he had been totally alone. Note that he did not see a person. He did not see a foot. All he saw with the marks made by a human foot in the sand. That was circumstantial evidence. Our case has footprints in the sand that are just as strong evidence as the story of Robinson Crusoe.