Creative Motion Practice - Thinking Outside the Box - Innovative Approaches
West Virginia Trial Lawyers Association June 6 & 7, 2002
By: IRA H. LEESFIELD
2350 South Dixie Highway
Miami, Florida 33133
Phone: (305) 854-4900 or (800) 836-6400
Fax: (305) 854-8266
A trial lawyer is a courtroom lawyer by definition. However, this simple definition demonstrates very little about the dynamics of being a trial lawyer. Modern trial lawyers play a vital role in the life of our society, as well as, the lives of their friends and families. Knowing yourself and your role in society leads to job satisfaction and fulfillment. Understanding these concepts is knowing what a trial lawyer is.
2. Knowing Your Role in Society
If you are a lawyer, what are you?
If you are a lawyer, you stand between the abuse of governmental power and the individual...
If you are a lawyer, you stand between the abuse of corporate power and the individual...
If you are a lawyer, you stand between the abuse of judicial power and the individual...
If you are a lawyer, you are the hair shirt to the smugness and complacency of society, and
If you are a lawyer, you are helping to mold the rights of individuals for generations to come.
In short, if you are a lawyer, you are the Trustee of our liberties.
- Theodore I. Koskoff
3. Knowing Yourself & Finding Job Satisfaction
1. Most of our practices involve the same three key elements:
1. Business Development
2. Trial Preparation
3. The actual trial of a case
Increasingly, the negative public view of trial lawyers promoted by special interests afraid of a level playing field, produces stress and reduces the quality of our practice. There are a number of techniques and approaches I have developed over the years which combat the “wear and tear” of the everyday practice and lead to higher job satisfaction. In no special order, this paper suggests some fresh approaches to our practices making our daily work more satisfying, rewarding, and productive. There are no magic formulas, combination of ideas, or actions that work for everyone. So, here goes!
2. Quality of life issues:
To function under the stress, deadlines, client demands, and law firm logistics, a big commitment must be made to improve your quality of life. Here are some suggestions that may help:
A. Family and Friends
B. Exercise, Fitness, and Nutrition
C. Community Involvement
*Leesfield Family Foundation
Social, Political, and Public Service
D. Spiritual Awareness
E. Teaching, Mentoring, Writing, and Publishing
3. Satisfaction through business development:
Business development can be fun and productive at the same time. The opportunity to meet new members of the community, lawyers and non-lawyers, is all part of the business development program. To expand your networking and professional circles, think about:
A. National organizations such as ATLA
B. Your State trial lawyers’ organization
C. Other State trial lawyers’ organizations, as well as local bar associations
D. Non-lawyer organizations, including university affiliations
E. Civic, charitable, religious, and political involvement
F. Publications such as Newsletters (see attached Exhibit 1)
G. Plan social events, home entertainment, sporting events, cultural events. Bring people together. Community involvement.
4. Trial preparation:
One of the most difficult and stressful aspects of trial practice is discovery and preparation for trial. The everyday aspects of running a business consume time and energy and bog you down in details. A few helpful pointers to help make trial preparation easier and in some ways enjoyable, eliminating stress, are:
A. Smart Travel. So much of what we do involves travel. To make our job easier and even more enjoyable, an attempt should be made to add something to your travel schedule when the work is done, i.e., catch a game at Camden Yards in Baltimore.
B. Arrive early, get set for your depositions. Do not leave things for the last minute.
C. Thorough preparation and logistical planning for the time and place of your depositions.
D. If possible and the case warrants it, travel with an associate or business partner.
E. Comfort in accommodation.
F. Traveling with opposing counsel.
G. The use of experts to make trial preparation easier.
H. Organization of the file.
5. Actual trial of a case:
The most satisfying part of the practice to many begins when we utter the words: “May we please the Court?” All of the preparation, worrying, and anxiety is overtaken by the adrenaline of “taking the playing field”. Now is the opportunity to put the case together and convert our preparation and training into a result. Some examples of satisfaction through trial and mediation include:
1. Grayson v. USA
2. Lang v. Drive Master
3. Eimers v. Honda
4. Baillou Guy v. Memorial Hospital
“When others lose a case, we immediately feel compassion for them...We feel sincerely about consoling our colleagues, partners, or friends. But when we lose, do we give ourselves that same compassion? No. Almost invariably, we beat up on ourselves. We revisit the “shoulds,” cut ourselves no slack, and continue to be overly self critical, asking a lot of “what ifs.” If we could treat ourselves as we treat others after a loss in the courtroom, we would get over the pain much faster. Having a sense of compassion also makes us better more spiritual human beings.”
- J. Gary Gwilliam
One good aspect of being a trial lawyer is having immediate results at the conclusion of a trial. Sometimes however, we must deal with losing a case. This experience can be a painful experience. In fact, few things are more disappointing then getting an unfavorable result after investing a great deal of energy into a case. The best thing to do in this circumstance is to accept the (occasional) loss. Although you will self-critique and think about “what might have been,” do not be too hard on yourself. Inner turmoil will show in your demeanor and attitude toward the people around you.
Another good aspect of being a trial lawyer is getting a chance to experience victory. Winning is sometimes our strongest motivation. However, helping the client should also be of the utmost importance. Being a friend and advocate can be the most rewarding experience in your career.
Scolaro v. Turf Management Systems(after the trial)
The practice of trial lawyers is hard. It requires intensity, conviction, and perseverance. It is also amazingly satisfying and rewarding if put in the proper perspective and balance. Achieving this balance is where most lawyers miss the boat. We hear so much about “burnout”, which is really just the result of imbalance in a trial lawyer’s life. Hopefully, our short visit today will be uplifting, adding some insight, humor, and introspection to all of our practices.
 J. Gary Gwilliam, Go Easy On Yourself, 34 Trial 84 (1998).