It can be a frightening experience to put your thoughts and words out into the world.
As you read this, you may say: how can that be? After all, here I am a trial lawyer who thinks, writes, and speaks for a living. How is it that a trial lawyer can be afraid to speak?
Let me tell you that a trial lawyer with fake confidence can know all the laws of the land and will still be sniffed out by a jury of twelve. One of the beauties of the civil jury system is: you can fool some of the people some of the time, but you cannot fool all of the people all of the time.
As a trial lawyer that represents people, not the financial interests, my fear derives from the thought of seeing a jury carry out an injustice because I did not do enough to expose the truth. Thankfully, that has not happened to me.
I have seen it happen. I have seen the faces of innocent people maimed or who have lost a family member, as the judge reads out a defense verdict. Their eyes. It’s not a deer in the headlights look; it’s like getting hit by a mac-truck.
We all carry things. I carry the weight that accompanies standing up for the lot of others. And, I know great attorneys can still lose merit-worthy cases.
I know the weight that comes with telling someone else’s story. To tell another's story. It means we've spent time together. I have listened intensely for hours at a time. I’ve met important people in this person’s life. We’ve shared meals. We’ve laughed. We’ve worked through a tragedy together to some extent. There is a reason we call it being a “counselor” of the law. By the time a jury trial is heard, I will have represented my clients for years. When I speak, it’s real.
Story is the most ancient means of passing knowledge in human history, and everyone has one.
You know, most people respond to trauma with the hope and expectation that one day they will return to the person they were before. But for the permanently hobbled or parents of a lost child, no matter how hard they fight or how mentally strong they are, it is never the same as before. They've lost a piece of themselves. They will come to accept this new reality, but it's not easy. It takes time. It is a process that means letting go of what they had before, and adapting to what they've been left to live with even though they never had a say in the matter.
To be authentic and real in front of your community, about how a senseless tragedy affects a man, it can be frightening, but it’s the only way to real justice.
Sometimes the outcome of trial is altered in 20 seconds.
Twenty seconds of raw truth from the witness stand that tells us everything we need to know, and the room shifts on its axis.
The role of a trial lawyer includes helping to create a safe environment for the injured to tell the truth. The whole truth. Not just of the incident, or of the pain, but also of the mourning and the grief, the altered quality of life, the frustration and the inadequacy of it all. These things can be uncomfortable for devastated people to talk openly about. Trial lawyers do a disservice to their clients and to the justice system when they neglect this aspect of the job.
What matters is not the absence of fear. Here is what fear tells me. Fear tells me: I'm alive, that I care. And as far as I know, no one has outlawed lawyers from caring in a courtroom.