For those who are not basketball fans, the name Stephen Curry may not be someone you’ve heard about. Curry is a member of the Golden State Warriors professional basketball team. He is in another record setting season for points scored in a game. At age 28 he is averaging 30.5 points a game and 6.4 assists while shooting an average of 51% from the field and 46% from the three point range.
To qualify for a three point shot in basketball, the ball must have been launched a minimum of 23.9 feet from the basket. In professional basketball an average of making baskets 50% or more of the time is considered very good and for three point shots 45% of the time. Curry has made 330 of the three point shots this season obliterating the previous record of 286 that was his record from last season. This is extraordinary basketball in the professional basketball league.Curry is a 6’3″ point guard and among the giants of the game is considered small. His accuracy is extraordinary. He has made 50% of the shots taken beyond 30 feet from the basket.
So, what has this got to do with being a plaintiff’s trial lawyer? While his shooting ability is in a sense a gift, it is based upon hard work, practice and concentrated focus. These are same qualities that are required for being a great plaintiff’s trial lawyer. Curry has a well-established post practice routine of taking 100 shots from the three point range. He works his way around the arc, shooting 10 shots from each spot. In spite of the fact that he is the league’s most valuable player and his extraordinary playing, Curry sees room to grow and continues to practice and prepare for games. Most summers he concentrates on maintaining and building endurance and continues to regularly practice shooting accuracy. In spite of all of his success he prepares, practices and has concentration.
The benefit of the intense practice is that it allows curry to perform without thinking about what he’s doing. It comes automatically because of all the practice. He has said:
“As soon as (the ball) touches my hand, I can go from that point to a quick release and shoot it. I don’t really time stuff – like, all right, I’m about to hit him with a one – two and then shoot. It’s more just, as soon as you get into a move and see daylight, being able to transition from the dribble to the shot as quickly as possible.” He added, “I work on that stuff and try to keep it as quick as I can, and as efficient.”
The connection to Curry’s success and being a successful plaintiff’s lawyer is that both require hard word with preparation to the point correct things are done at trial without thinking about it. In his book Outliers Malcolm Gladwell says that it takes roughly ten thousand hours of practice to achieve mastery in a field. Deliberate practice not only improves performance but it means the ability for the right action or response without having to think it totally through. Athletes call this being in the zone; coaches call it muscle memory. It means that repeated actions become nearly automatic reflexes.
How do we achieve this as trial lawyers? The answer is work. These are the steps:
- Know you case. You need to read it all: the depositions, the documents, the exhibits and know the witness testimony. There are no short cuts without the risk of suffering failure in this regard.
- Prepare in advance. You need to outline your jury selection, opening, direct, cross and summation sufficiently before it is needed to get it right. That doesn’t mean you should read it. It means putting in writing and preparing in advance improves content and delivery.
- Practice. Yes, I know, at least in your own mind, you are already a great lawyer who has tried cases, but if you want to improve you need to practice your planned jury, opening and summation. Preferably you will video tape yourself and then watch it. Hopefully, you’ll have the courage to have others who are qualified review it and make suggestions. Maybe, in major cases, you’ll take the time to do it in front of a focus group and accept their review.
If a great basketball player like Steph Curry continues to practice his shooting and work at his endurance in spite of all his success why doesn’t it make sense for us too, if we really want to be great at what we do?