Some tough decisions have to be made. You need a lawyer. A lot is riding on the outcome of this case. Losing is not an option. What do you do? What questions do you ask of the attorneys who have been recommended to you about their skills and experience?
Having been in the trenches with a lot of lawyers – many of them great, and others not so great – I have learned some hard lessons and have seen up close which lawyers effectively and efficiently represent their clients’ best interests. I’ve also learned which ones seem to spin their wheels in “litigation mode” while running up fees and doing little to get a client out of a jam.
There are many qualities that to me define a “great” lawyer, e.g., intelligence, work ethic and courtroom experience. Those things are certainly important. But, in my opinion, the one quality that is required for greatness is the kind of understanding of human nature, human motivation, and human decision-making that can only come from putting oneself in the line of fire. Lawyers who try cases, as opposed to those who “litigate” cases, have credibility. These are lawyers who have demonstrated, through actual pass-fail experience, that they have the nerve to try cases to a conclusion when necessary, and who do so with a passion for excellence and a passion for doing right for their client. You will find the great lawyers among this group.
Experience in trying jury cases to a conclusion makes a lawyer better able to see the case from a client’s point of view and from a jury’s point of view – even from the opposing lawyer’s point of view. It is only when a lawyer understands the case with 360-degree situational awareness – of the parties, the judge, the opponent and the witnesses – that he or she can be truly effective in representing clients. The lawyer who is known as a true trial lawyer also gets cases settled – often faster and on better terms. Why? Because the ability to try and win the case is the ultimate settlement leverage.
So, when choosing a lawyer, a record of jury verdicts matters. Until a lawyer has taken the time, and shown the courage to confront big challenges with enormous consequences, and can stand in front of you and say: “I know the stakes. I know the consequences of winning and losing. I know how to influence, to motivate – and yes, to excite a jury,” you will be talking to a litigator, not a trial lawyer.
Whether you expect a trial, or you just want the best possible out-of-court resolution, you want a trial lawyer on your side.