ORDER IN THE COURT Pulling Back the Curtain on Trials
s I wrapped up 2019, I spent a lot of time in trial. It was a busy few weeks, but I enjoy the challenge of going to trial and guiding my clients through the experience. Few people know what to expect during a trial beyond what they’ve seen on TV and in movies.
It’s that story and the way I’m able to tell it that will ultimately determine the outcome of the case.
clients, as well as prepare them for how we’re going to tell their story. It’s important that we keep our clients from getting too wrapped up in the formality of it all. There’s so much formality in the trial — the judge in their robes, the lawyers at the tables, the court attendant, the podium; it’s all part
For example, most people don’t realize the importance of pretrial motions. Not all of the evidence comes into the trial. The judge’s ruling on evidence can make a huge difference and add value to the case. The jury will only hear about evidence the judge determines is fair and relevant during pretrial. This is why things are constantly moving in a trial. As a lawyer, that’s part of the excitement. It’s difficult to say what’s going to happen because there are so many variables we don’t have any control over. Back when I was a public defender, I could get very caught up in what the arguments were going to be during the trial. Opening statements and rebuttals were my focus. When I started working on personal injury cases, I realized the importance of being able to tell a client’s story. It’s that story and the way I’m able to tell it that will ultimately determine the outcome of the case. Going to trial is scary for a lot of clients. We understand that. Most lawyers would rather settle cases so our clients don’t have to deal with the stress. But when it becomes necessary to go to trial, we have to prepare our clients. This can be difficult for lawyers to do because we go to trial all the time. Fighting for cases in the courtroom is part of our everyday lives, but most people have never set foot in a courtroom before their case. Lawyers need to remember our clients are human. In order to tell their story to the jury, we need to stay in touch with our clients emotionally. When we go to trial, we have to lay out the framework and the legality of the situation for our
of the formality that sanitizes the court and sucks the emotions out of the experience. While it’s important for juries to make decisions based on facts, it’s also important for the lawyers to bring emotion back into the case. The cases we fight for do have a great deal of emotion underneath. Juries are giving money as compensation for loss as well as pain and suffering — which is another way of saying emotional loss. I don’t want my clients pulled into the sanitized version of events. I want them to help me tell their true story, to bring real emotion into the courtroom so the jury feels it. There are a lot of confusing, intimidating, and overwhelming things about going to trial, but in the end, it really boils down to the client being able to tell their story. That’s why it’s called their day in court. When we do that right, all those formalities don’t seem quite so intimidating anymore.
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