They say attending the Trial Lawyers College can change your life. I’m not sure I want my life changed, but I am looking forward to spending the next three weeks at Gerry Spence’s Trial Lawyers College, in the remote mountains of Wyoming. I’ll be there with 48 other lawyers, chosen from across the US. The whole thing sounds daunting but exciting at the same time. Spence and others will attempt to remake us in our own image – that’s right – our image, not theirs. The truth is, no lawyer can successfully be anyone other than him/herself. Attempting to imitate anyone else would simply not work because jurors see through that type of ruse. As I tell jurors, I am just a little guy in baggie pants. Just a "ham & egger," catching cases that seem mundane to some, but case that are huge to the folks involved. So off I go to learn from great teachers – and to teach a little myself. I will share the stuff I have learned that works, and get ideas for cases that are coming up soon. Over the next three weeks I will break away from Thunderhead Ranch (no cattle, no round-ups, no TV, no cell phones) and post updates about my experience. If you have been wondering what happens there, stay tuned. I can’t share the secret handshake, but I will share what I learn about the process. After 25 years of doing this stuff, a little refreshing seems in order. And maybe you will decide that you should attend too.
Speaking of process – I was reminded today of an article that appeared in Litigation magazine in 2006, authored by a Federal Magistrate Judge I left on a racketeering jury. Yes, I left him on a jury. Other lawyers called me as the trial dragged on, mostly wondering what kind of fool would leave a sitting judge on a jury. As it turned out – the kind of fool who trusts the man, and does not fear the robe. The article is entitled A Judge On The Jury and it records Judge Larry Boyle’s observations about the role of the lawyers at trial. The trial went on for ten weeks, and the indictment alleged over 150 crimes ("predicate acts" in RICO lingo). In the end, the jury acquitted on all but 5 of the predicate acts. It hung on those 5, unable to reach a unanimous finding. More important than the result is Judge Boyle’s observations on how jurors watch what we do as lawyers. His article should be read by every lawyer and client before going to trial. Jurors watch the client and the lawyers, but in the end it is the evidence – the testimony and the exhibits – that drive the cart. That could be good or bad news depending on your case. If you have a minute read the article. No more minutes for me. Gotta pack for TLC. Maybe I can figure out how those 5 predicate acts got away.