Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP) is a discipline which teaches modeling of thought and action to help achieve improved performance in yourself. It focuses on how the mind processes information and methods for installing strategies for achievement. I have written about NLP principles frequently. I am convinced that many of the techniques and strategies taught in this discipline are of great importance to success by plaintiff trial lawyers with jurors, others and themselves.
I believe that we plaintiff trial lawyers, are so caught up in the demands of our trial practice that we do not spend enough time thinking about our clients and our cases. As the trial date approaches we are totally caught up in discovery procedures and motions of every sort. We soon find ourselves trying to keep up with all the legal demands of our case and not having time to think about the case as a whole or examine our own attitudes about it.
I think our training as lawyers teaches us to concentrate on details and legal issues so that we lose our ability to see our case and ourselves through the eyes of our jurors or non lawyers. We think technicalities and minute details have significance no juror or non lawyer places any importance upon. We lose sight of the big picture. We fail to examine the real issues in our case with the realistic eye of an ordinary juror. We are easily led astray by new defenses and red herrings the defense thrives upon. We are distracted from the issues that the jurors will really find important.
NLP offers insight about projects and objectives we plan to undertake. Various strategies are offered for doing this. One simple illustration of how one would plan out a project taught in NLP involves asking questions. Here is a very simplistic outline of some questions in that regard. For case analysis we would supplement these and apply what we learn from focus studies, but this will illustrate one simple example of what I am talking about.
I realize that we are trained to be logical and process our cases by following the rules of procedure with methods for taking action we have learned. Therefore, we have skepticism for anything that doesn’t seem to have practical value, but I believe the great plaintiff trial lawyers are those who put as much mental effort into their cases as they do practical steps. It is the ability to always see the case as a whole with the issues that jurors will think are significant that produces great results.
- what do you want to achieve? Be specific & not “get a big verdict” but detail your objectives. What are you trying to achieve for your client?
- Is this a case which should be settled and if so, settled early or settled close to trial? Is this a case which should be settled if at all possible?
- Is this a case which is better tried than settled if the offer is not substantial?
- What are the value ranges given liability, damages & coverage?
- what should you do first? Sometimes you are better off to use freedom of information or informal discovery rather than file the case and sometimes you are better off filing immediately.
- What are the priorities in importance?
- how do you plan to accomplish each objective?
- When should each be done? Create a time table of priorities.
- What should you do to accomplish each of them?
- what is going on in your mind as you consider each of these?
- Do you visualize the outcome you want for each?
- what do you tell yourself about these strategies?
- How can I do this and enjoy the process?
- What can I learn from doing this?
- What do I imagine when I visualize the process?
- What emotions are you feeling as you go through this process?
- How will you feel if you accomplish each objective & the final objective?
Beliefs, values and attitudes
- what do you believe about the case?
- How committed are you to achieving success?
- What is your attitude towards your client in the case?
- Do you fully & completely understand your client & the case significant facts?
- What do you anticipate the reaction of others will be to your case and the issues involved?
- How do you feel about that anticipated reaction?
- Visualize how you will react to anticipated actions & responses.
So, there you are. I hope there is something here that you find helpful. If nothing else I urge you, during the frenzy of preparing the case, to stop and take the time to just think about your client and your case not as a tactical project, but from a human standpoint. Remember, the people who will decide the case do not think the way lawyers and judges have been taught to think and they decide the case.