BOOK REVIEW AND TRIAL ADVOCACY LESSONS:
by Rudy Giuliani
To be the guide the jurors can trust, you must be a leader. In this book, Giuliani outlines 14 different aspects of leadership (listed below in the chapter headings), but in this review, I'm only going to examine a few of them, and discuss how they relate to your trial practice.
Chapter 3: Prepare Relentlessly. In this chapter, Giuliani shares one of the rules he learned as a U.S. Attorney. Judge J. Edward Lumbard taught him, "Don't assume a damn thing." Good advice for any trial lawyer. Giuliani writes, "The biggest mistake that good lawyers made, he said, was assuming too much - that the jury would make inferences, that the opposing counsel would raise specific issues, that their own clients wouldn't say ludicrous things or behave in some ridiculous way. Judge [Lloyd] MacMahon observed that really bad lawyers made so many mistakes they never even reached a level of error that involved assumptions."
What about you? How well prepared are you for your next trial? Have you read everything you can read? Have you examined all of the documents? Have you talked to all of the witnesses? Have you read all of the applicable caselaw? Have you learned about your judge? There is no substitute for being prepared. Giuliani comments, "Leaders may possess brilliance, extraordinary vision, fate, even luck. Those help; but no one, no matter how gifted, can perform without careful preparation, thoughtful experiment, and determined follow-through." Strive to be the best-prepared lawyer in the courtroom, and you will dramatically improve your chances of success.
Chapter 7: Underpromise and Overdeliver. This strategy applies to your opening statement. If you tell the jurors your "best case scenario" during openings, they will require you to meet those heightened expectations. As a trial lawyer, you know that it never goes according to plan. So what happens when you raise the jury's expectations too high? Even though you meet your burden of proof, they may expect you to meet your self-imposed "best case scenario." Failure to do so may result in an undesired verdict.
Instead, lower their expectations during your opening statement. Tell them that it will be more difficult than you expect. Then, as you prove your case, show them that it's easier than you promised. Deliver more than you promised during openings. Exceed their expectations.
Chapter 8. Develop and Communicate Strong Beliefs. Do you hide behind your notes or behind the lectern when you deliver your opening statement or closing argument? If so, you're missing out on an opportunity to connect with your jurors. Speak from your heart and connect with the jurors.
Here's what Giuliani has to say about speaking without notes: "Speaking without a script or podium means taking a certain risk. That's exciting in any live performance. When you go see Pavarotti or Domingo, part of the thrill is hearing whether he hits the note. That's why live theater persists. The excitement of a speaker risking failure - taking the chance that he'll forget what he came to say or stammer and stutter the whole time - electrifies the audience. They tune in and pay closer attention." You might need a few notes (names, dates, numbers), but don't tie yourself to a script. Make eye contact with the jurors, rather than your legal pad, and you'll communicate more effectively with them.
In this chapter, he also discusses the importance of sticking to your word. "Any leader is only as good as his word," he says. What is your word worth? As a lawyer, you must be a person of your word. When you are negotiating with opposing counsel, they must be able to rely upon what you say. More importantly, your negotiating strength depends upon the strength of your word. You know which attorneys in your courthouse posture and threaten to take cases to trial, but always manage to back down once the actual threat of trial looms on the horizon. (If you don't know which attorneys are afraid to go to trial, maybe it's you!)
These attorneys don't stick to their word. But not you. You need to communicate honestly, and stick to your word. As Giuliani says, "People need to understand that you mean exactly what you say."
That means you may have to try several cases back-to-back before the local bar realizes you mean it when you say, "This is my best and last offer." It may tire you out, but it will be worth the effort. Stick to your word, and it will pay remarkable dividends down the road.
Chapter 13. Study. Read. Learn Independently. "Over time," he writes, "I developed the romantic notion that one can find secret solutions in books. I intensely read about every subject I undertake, and I do so with the notion that I will learn things about it that nobody else knows." Since you're reading this, you're obviously following Giuliani's advice, but what else do you read about trial advocacy? There are fantastic resources available, online, in the bookstores, in the movies, and in your courthouse. What are you reading each week? What other trial advocacy newsletters do you read? Commit to reading something every week about trial advocacy, and you'll soon be recognized as a skillful trial lawyer.
Overall, this book is an interesting read and a quick page turner. You'll find behind-the-scenes stories of the September 11th tragedy, insights into the workings of the nation's most populous city, and a few war stories from his time as a U.S. Attorney. Most importantly, you'll find tips to help you lead... in the courtroom, in the office, and in the community.
To order your copy today: Leadership by Rudy Giuliani
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