Several times a year, I am asked what it means to be a trial lawyer. Sometimes, a client says, “Your card says you’re a trial lawyer. What do you mean by calling yourself a ‘trial lawyer?’” Of course he wants to understand the distinction between a trial lawyer and the garden-variety, simply-defined “lawyer.” If I were referred to as just a lawyer, that would be similar to calling a brain specialist a “doctor” instead of a “neurologist.”

So, I got to thinking. What is a trial lawyer?

The Merriam Webster Dictionary defines a “trial lawyer” as a “lawyer who engages chiefly in the trial of cases before courts of original jurisdiction.”

Ok. I can go with that. Up to a point. However, I think it is more properly defined in the way you might try not to think of what a trial lawyer is – similar to how you can’t help but think about an elephant when someone tells you not to think about an elephant:. By not thinking about what a trial lawyer is.

Don’t think of the years of schooling.

Don’t think of the personal sacrifice of relationships and good times to allow research of cases of important precedent.

Don’t think of soul-searching through postmortems to understand what caused the loss of a case.

Don’t think of working late into the night to craft the perfect argument.

Don’t think of unknotting the multiple threads of every case, those that are inextricably woven together.

Don’t think of concentrating on every word uttered to detect flaws within one second’s passing.

Don’t think of identifying your own selfishness that might be preventing you from moving forward.

Don’t think of being the voice of someone who is dead.

Don’t think of the time, effort and thought to make you the best witness for your own defense.

Don’t think of making split-second decisions in the face of huge consequences should you err.

Don’t think of spontaneous moments and flashes of brilliance.

Don’t think of courage.

Don’t think of loyalty.

Don’t think of dedication.

Don’t think of compassion.

Don’t think of risk.

Don’t think of fear.

Don’t think of the client’s fears.

Don’t think of simply permitting confusion to be just that: confusion.

Don’t think of simply permitting frustration to simply be in the moment.

Don’t think of years of experience.

Don’t think of always learning.

Don’t think about cops who betray our trust.

Don’t think about prosecutors over charging.

Don’t think about judges that are rigid to the point of injustice.

Don’t think of not being able to relax, even when your eyes and brain scream for rest.

Don’t think about all things you need to do but don’t have time to do them.

Don’t think of never having the security of a guaranteed outcome.

Don’t think of the satisfaction of doing what’s right.

Don’t think of righting a wrong.

Don’t think of clearing a hundred hurdles and outlasting those hurdles.

Don’t think of…

Don’t think of…

Don’t think of…

You see, when you try to not think about what a trial lawyer is or how he or she is defined, you find that all along, you already knew:

A trial lawyer is a true friend.

2021-10-05T13:46:39-05:00

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