SUGGESTIONS FOR IMPROVED TRIAL SKILLS

Here are a collection of ideas and thoughts from a variety of sources about being a trial lawyer. Perhaps some of these will help you in developing better trial skills.

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AUTHENTICITY

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1.Margery Williams “The Velveteen Rabbit

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Real is and how your made, said the skin horse. It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but really loves you, then you become real.

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“Does it hurt?” Asked the rabbit. Sometimes, said the skin horse for he was always truthful. When you are real you don’t mind being hurt.

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Does it happen all at once, like being wound up or bit by bit?

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It doesn’t happen all at once said the skin horse you become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or who have sharp edges, or who must be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes dropout and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once your real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand

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2..Shakespeare Hamlet:

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“This above all: to thine own self be true, And

it must follow, as the night the day, thou

canst not then be false to any many”

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3.Authenticity: talking and acting in a way that is consistent with core values and not pretending to be someone else. Uganda president Idi Amin: “Sometimes people make what I say for what I’m thinking.”  Therefore, honesty is always the best policy not only with others but with us.

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4.Great trial lawyers show calmness, clarity and focus.

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5.Leadership is based on character not style. Authentic leaders are real and genuine.

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6.Groucho Marx: “Sincerity is the key to success. Once you can fake that you’ve got it made. “Contrary to popular advice you can’t “fake it till you make it” by putting on a show. People sense quickly who is authentic and who is not.

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7.Authentic leaders are not perfect and when they make mistakes, they are willing to fully and completely admit their mistakes.

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DEMEANOR

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1.Your demeanor is important. Research has shown nonverbal communication is of extreme importance. People in jurors arrive at impressions and conclusions quickly on first encounter with someone else.

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AMY CUDDY

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1.This Harvard psychologist says people judge you based on two criteria when they first meet you:

(a) can I trust this person?

(b) can I respect this person?

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Psychologists refer to these dimensions as warmth and competence. However, from an evolutionary perspective it was more crucial to survival to know whether person could be trusted. When you consider that in caveman days it was more important to figure out if your fellow man was going to kill you than it was to know if he was competent enough to build a fire.

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2.Cuddy became famous in her field for a study about the effects of “power poses.” The study found that subjects who were directed to stand or sit in certain positions — legs astride, or feet up on a desk — reported stronger “feelings of power” after posing than they did before. Even more compelling than that, to many of her peers, was that the research measured actual physiological change as a result of the poses: The subjects’ testosterone levels went up, and their cortisol levels, which are associated with stress, went down.

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SPENCE TRIAL COLLEGE

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1.A basic premise taught is to find our authentic self and become authentic people. If we are to be trusted, we must be genuine people.

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3.Through techniques of psychodrama we reverse roles with judge’s jurors and witnesses to understand them.

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4.To obtain the trust of other people we must tell them the truth.

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5.You can’t change the judge, but you can change how you react and respond. Remember, you get back what you reflect to others. “The mirror is always working”

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6.Psychodrama is a journey of self-discovery. It can answer the important questions: What are the things I believe are the most important to me? What makes me happy? If you weren’t concerned about failing or if money was no object, how would you live your life differently? What frightens me? What concerns me? If I had the power to change the law, what would I do?

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7.Psychodrama teaches us that there is great power in vulnerability. 

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8.You have the case half won just by being real and open and honest. That can be hard to do because we are not trained that way in law school. It is a tool to help us discover the story of what happened. That’s what we are really doing in the courtroom. We are telling a story by using the witnesses and evidence. To do that well, we need the skills of advocacy.  

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TRIAL SKILLS

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1.For a trial lawyer, truthfulness, honesty and authenticity are the core value essentials to be a great trial lawyer.

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2.One of the essential skills needed is to be a great listener

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3.If you’re wrong admit it quickly and clearly

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4.An important and essential skill of a great trial lawyer is to remember to smile often.

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5.Always remember to use role reversal by seeing things from the other persons point of view

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6.Calmness and self-control are the mark of a great trial lawyer. Practice what Spence calls “watchful waiting” before responding or reacting.

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MAKE CLIENT PART OF TRIBE

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1.Conservative jurors will be reluctant to requests to help client. But if client is part of jury tribe and it is a story about  trust in the defendant with betrayal of that trust conservative jurors will respond. First, you have to make plaintiff part of the juror’s tribe by showing common interests and values.

EMPOWERING THE JURY

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1.It is important to always empower the jury to do what you are asking them to do. Communicate to them that they have the immense power to enforce clear rules in this case

TRANCE STATE

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1.John Appleman was a nationally known trial lawyer who published about communication. He advocated what he called “waking suggestions” which were
(1)Making suggestions for jury actions that were ones readily acceptable and were seen as fundamentally right and fair.
(2)The suggestions must be projected with as demeanor of absolute confidence that the jury will act on suggestion and
(3)They must be presented with the clear assurance the jury will be both proud and glad for doing it in the months and years ahead.

TELL A STORY ABOUT BETRAYAL, NOT A MISTAKE

1.We have a Biblical duty to forgive mistakes and to punish deliberate evil. The client’s story should be one of intentional betrayal of a duty owed. A story of betrayal calls for punishment. A story of accident, mistake and careless negligence calls for understanding and forgiveness. If your story is one of betrayal and ask for significant damages, the jury will be motivated to punish through damages. But, if you tell a story of mistake or negligence and ask for significant damages, the jury will see this as greedy.

About Paul Luvera

Plaintiff trial lawyer for 50 years. Past President of the Inner Circle of Advocates & Washington State Trial Lawyers Association. Member American Board of Trial Advocates, American College of Trial Lawyers, International Academy, International Society of Barristers, member of the National Trial Lawyers Hall of Fame & speaker at Spence Trial College
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