By Collin County Criminal Defense Lawyer Jeremy Rosenthal
I don’t write much about trial advocacy because I think most people who happen across my blawg are probably more interested in other nuts & bolts legal topics. Experience, comfort and skill in the courtroom is extremely important stuff, though.
I can safely say I spend more time honing my trial skills than any other type of other continuing education available. This is in part because it fascinates me and, frankly, it’s my trade. I like to think of myself like a basketball player who works every day after practice on nothing but free-throws, dribbling to the left, or shooting threes.
On my bookshelf you’ll find books about jury psychology, cross-examination, and persuasive rhetoric. I devour jury studies, psychological studies, and other data which I feel help give me an edge in trial.
Trial is the fascinating competition between two (or more) parties trying to re-create an event in the most persuasive way possible. Preparing for any trial is like composing a tune or in some cases — a symphony. There are many small components which have to neatly and seamlessly fit together all aimed at not only telling the more persuasive story, but convincing a judge or jury to be motivated to act on your cause.
In all my trial work and through all my experience I have come to one conclusion about successful trial work:
The will to win is the will to prepare. The harder I work, the luckier I get.
Television and the movies make us think there are a handful of gifted mouthpieces that can magically show up and enchant a jury regardless of the facts. The most talented actor in the world can’t prepare for a few hours then take the lead in a broadway show. The most gifted athlete can’t sit on the sofa all week then lead his team to a playoff win. Why would it be any different for a lawyer born with the gift of gab taking on a trial with little or no preparation where the results truly matter?
Trial advocacy is extremely important in criminal defense. It never ceases to amaze me how creative and talented many of my colleagues are at trying cases. At the same time, I’ve watched many trials on the sidelines watching through my fingers at how badly the lawyers have prepared.
Do yourself a favor when you are picking a lawyer for your criminal case — ask them how often they try cases, ask them how much they study trial advocacy, and ask them what they do to prepare for trial.
The answers should be extremely revealing.
*Jeremy Rosenthal is Board Certified in Criminal Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization and licensed by the Supreme Court of Texas. Nothing in this Article is intended to be legal advice. For advice about any situation you should always contact an attorney. Contacting the attorney through this forum does not create an attorney-client relationship. Communications sent through this forum are not confidential.