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Transcending the usual way of doing things in court – Harnessing the power of group trial preparation

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During the last day of the Trial Lawyers College in 1995, some people shared their expectations of returning to their usual lives, many very much changed people returning to people who had not experienced the four weeks spending time ten miles from the nearest paved road. I saw it as an opportunity for my clients to benefit from what I had learned and how I had grown, and to share what I had learned with interested fellow criminal defense colleagues.

Both the TLC and the National Criminal Defense College’s Trial Practice Institute emphasize thinking outside the box, approaching trials from the level of persuading humans rather than the overintellectualized lawyer-speak level, and loving (in a brotherly and sisterly and compassionate way) our clients so much that we translate that caring into finding the extra sparks of inspiration, energy, effort, and time to prepare and present as winning a case as possible.

Applying these lessons often requires transcending business as usual in courtrooms that leads many judges to focus on moving the case along at the expense of giving true meaning to the Sixth Amendment right to effective assistance of counsel, and that leads prosecutors to wonder aloud (whether disingenuously or not) why "we can’t just do this case like we have always handled similar cases." Judges are more amenable to the lawyer who shows that s/he is not going to waste the court’s time on the road to doing things differently from the way the judge is usually accustomed to seeing lawyers present cases. If the lawyer engages the judge with his or her case preparation and presentation, that might make the judge all the more interested in and willing to do things differently than s/he usually sees them done.

The power of powerfully brainstorming cases with lawyers and non-lawyers cannot be underestimated. The fresh eye and inspiration that people not at the center of the case might have can be astounding. For that reason alone, particularly when a client probably needs to testify (giving up the Fifth Amendment right to remain silent in a criminal case) for us to win, I frequently assemble groups of lawyers (and sometimes non-lawyers) at my office for workshops to reach higher quantum levels towards victory, and I have at numerous times done the same favor for other lawyers. 

Before these sessions begin, I encourage my clients to keep an open mind and heart, as everyone sheds much of the lawyer role, and instead explores deeply into where my client and I are coming from, in order to help my client relate with the jury, judge, and lawyers in the courtroom, and to reach the "Ah-hah" moments towards victory that we wish to reach well before trial, rather than during an "aw sh*t" moment after a conviction, figuring out too late what we needed to do to win.

I am blessed with having numerous TLC alums in the area who unselfishly give their time to such trial workshops, and several other lawyers who find a benefit in such workshops. Again and again, I have seen my clients jump right into the workshop, putting their faith into the possibilities that such workshops have in enhancing our chance of victory, and often sharing painful and difficult concerns and events in a safe atmosphere for doing so, that, at the end, helps the client feel in harmony, and that always, with my clients, has helped them feel better than before the session started.

Some clients pay for a psychodramatist/jury consultant to lead the workshop, which enhances the benefits of the trial preparation workshop all the more. Some TLC alums are skilled in leading such workshops, as well, with similarly powerful results.

Often, I do not get a chance to test our trial workshop preparation before the jury, as many such cases end up settling from a greater position of strength than ever, sometimes with the added benefit of strong expert and lay witnesses backing up our negotiating position.

I am deeply and profoundly grateful to the many people who have helped me on the road to victory, through trial workshops, brainstorming, and spending time with me and my clients in figuring out the best road to victory.