Although very few lawsuits require a full trial, if your case goes to court, you need a civil litigation lawyer who knows how to prepare a winning case. While different trial attorneys use different styles, the best courtroom lawyers have a few things in common.
The most successful trial lawyers possess these important skills:
- Courtroom personality and presence
- Solid preparation and critical thinking
- Good storytelling
Some of these skills are taught in law school, some are innate talents, and others are learned over time with extensive trial experience. Let’s dive deeper into each category to know which attributes you should look for in a trial attorney.
Courtroom Personality and Presence
When polled, the majority of jurors and most judges appreciate certain personality characteristics during a trial. Specifically, they admire a litigator who:
- respects the legal system, the judge and courtroom staff, and the jury members
- connects with the jury or judge on a personal basis and persuasively helps them reach the most beneficial conclusion for her client
- demonstrates confidence in her legal abilities and the strength of her case
- controls the courtroom and the process of presenting her case with clear, organized evidence and argument, and
- knows her case inside and out and can answer the judge’s questions better than the other lawyer.
These skills stem from the time and effort the civil litigation lawyer has taken before she ever steps foot in the courtroom. The foundation for these skills is built over many months preparing the case for trial which leads us to the second important skill…
Solid Preparation and Critical Thinking
Each trial requires specific planning depending on the facts, but in general, every trial attorney must perform these necessary steps:
- initial homework to investigate every aspect of the case
- prepare a plan to keep everything in order and easily accessible
- gather all evidence including taking all necessary depositions
- request all important documents
- prepare exhibits and demonstrative aids for use at trial
- create detailed outlines of direct testimony and cross-examination questions
- craft sincere opening remarks and forceful closing arguments
- consider jury selection objectives
- prepare jury instructions
Once the basics are in place, a great trial attorney will take a step back to critically consider the best case narrative to present so the trier of fact will find in favor of the client. The importance of this pretrial preparation cannot be overstated. Even if you hope your case will settle before ever setting foot in the courtroom, your attorney must prepare for trial. In fact, good trial preparation may help you settle your case. On the other hand, if your attorney is not prepared for trial, you will be in a very weak position for negotiating a settlement.
The best litigators know that humans are drawn to stories, especially those that tug at the heartstrings. Jurors will remember more details and understand your legal position better if your attorney presents a cohesive storyline weaving all the facts together.
A successful trial lawyer will tell a story by:
- creating an overriding theme for the jury or judge to follow
- prioritizing the key witnesses and scheduling when will they testify
- clarifying the most important points to make and understanding how to deflect the opponent’s counter-points
- preparing the evidence needed to support the story
- anticipating the evidence the other side will bring and possible objections
- researching the relevant case law to prepare a game plan for all elements necessary to win the trial.
Once the story is set, the presentation is equally important to convince the judge or jury. Exceptional trial attorneys also hone their courtroom persona to maximize their effectiveness.
Special Trial Traits That Shine In The Courtroom
The best trial attorneys will impress the jury or judge by:
- having a positive attitude
- being respectful to everyone in the courtroom including the opposing counsel
- being professional and prepared and not wasting people’s time
- being a good listener and observing the judge’s and jury’s reactions
- gracefully handling unexpected situations.
Trial Traits That Fail In The Courtroom
When asked, most jurors will agree that the worst things a civil litigation lawyer can do during trial include:
- being rudeness, arrogant, or late to court
- disrespecting the judge and courtroom staff
- grandstanding and being overly dramatic
- being disorganized and wasting time while searching for documents or exhibits.
As experienced and successful civil trial attorneys, Noreen Evans and Deirdre Kingsbury understand how to prepare and present a winning case while vigorously advocating to achieve your best possible outcome. You can count on the decades of experience we offer at Evans Kingsbury LLP. Call us today at (707) 596-6090 or fill out our easy contact form to discuss your case.