The Qualities of Great Trial Lawyers

To become a great trial lawyer, you need eightBelow is an examination of certain qualities: you must develop your own style, tell a compelling story, see your case through the jurors’ eyes, be prepared, adopt an attitude of less is more (the rule of three), never compromise your integrity, passionately argue your case, and show charisma that you need to develop in order to become a great trial lawyer. Let’s discuss the first one here.

The goal of my book Turning Points at Trial: Great Lawyers Share Secrets, Strategies and is not to make every lawyer the same, even if it were possible. Instead, it is to give you access to great trial lawyers, transcripts of their trials, and the tools that have proven successful for many different types of lawyers in a wide- variety of circumstances so that you can use them to develop your own style. When I interviewed Alan Dershowitz for Turning Points, he told me that “people all the time ask him, ‘How can we be more like you?’ I say, ‘Don’t be more like me, be more like you. Figure out what you do best and make the argument fit your particular strengths and personality.’”

For example, if you are not folksy, don’t try to be. If you don’t remember details well, don’t try to be a master of them. However, that doesn’t mean you should not try to improve your skills. The first step to developing your own style is to watch other attorneys. See what works for them in the courtroom and see if it is something that would fit your own personality that you could use in your next trial. Surprisingly, you can get through three years of law school without ever stepping foot inside a courtroom.

Every law student–and even experienced lawyers–needs or lawyer needs to spend time at the courthouse watching different trials. You will see a variety of styles and get ideas to develop your own, based on your own strengths and weaknesses. Then you need to study transcripts to learn how to execute winning trial skills.

Once you are in trial yourself, get feedback from as many people as possible afterwards: the court reporter, the judge, the bailiff, and anyone who was listening. Ask the judge if you may speak to the jury. This feedback is essential to determine how you can improve. Find out if you need to be more or less aggressive, speak softer or louder, put on more or less evidence, and so on.

One simple tip you can do right now without even going to the courtroom. Look at your last deposition transcript and get rid of the verbal pauses you are unknowingly using. I bet that you start most of your questions with either of these verbal pauses which can be very annoying to a jury over a long period of time: alright, okay, and, uhm, thank you, and so. Even worse, you probably use those in every day conversation. Become aware of the word you use and get rid of it starting today.