Being a trial lawyer, like everything else in life, has a spiritual side. The way in which my path crossed with certain staff members’, learning a key lesson from one noncritical situation, that we can then effortlessly apply to a nearly instantaneously, subsequent critical situation, are just two examples of what I consider the spiritual side of practicing law. Other examples occur regularly during trials, when a lawyer is required to make split second decisions, many of which can win or lose the case. You don’t always have the time to fully analyze the particulars and once the decision is made and action taken, there are almost always no do overs. For example, when to lodge a proper objection is only partly based on knowledge of the law. There are times the question is legally objectionable but you hold back because you know the answer will help your case. Other times, the opposing lawyer might be on a roll and while an objection might be proper, the time to raise it has not yet come to pass. In those instances, a slightly premature objection might be in order. These situations require you to know the law to make the best possible decision but there is also often a gut feel that you at least have to pay attention to before acting. This is all happening within a matter of a second or two, at most, as the window of time to properly object to any given question is narrow.
During trial, the best lawyers are often balancing between being too aggressive, which can result in turning off the judge or jury, and with not being aggressive enough, which can result in not preserving an issue for appeal or not delivering that one powerful point that turns the judge or jury their way. This process demands razor focus, keen observation and intuition of everything going on in the courtroom, including macro and micro-facial expression, as well as body language recognition. You can’t just rely on your mind. There’s just not enough time to whip out a cerebral chalkboard and weigh the pros and cons of your options. This is no different than any other profession which requires quick action with little opportunity to go back and fix a mistake. Knowing whether or not you have the legal grounds to object or take a certain course of action in trial comes with years of hard work and experience but the law is not the only factor in making certain key decisions. Put another way, while knowing the law and being extremely experienced is a prerequisite to effective trial advocacy, much more is required to be as effective as possible.
In addition to being extremely experienced and knowledgeable, being open to guidance from your gut and spiritual “coincidences,” there is something else, the “X” factor. The best trial lawyers are thoughtful, organized, generally happy, and well-rounded people. They are almost singularly focused on using their natural/G-d given talents to serve others in a meaningful way. This has been my focus for as long as I can remember. My father never vocalized a service first philosophy but he lived it and I believe I learned this by watching him. As a personal injury and workers’ compensation lawyer, sure he got excited when he got a great result in a case which resulted in a big pay day but while signing up a case, preparing for trial and while actually handling it, there was only one thing he concerned himself with, how to best serve his clients, period. Money was of little, if any consequence and the several times he nearly bankrupted his firm to best serve a client was evidence of how steadfast he was in this belief.