Posts Tagged ‘Trial Lawyer’

Overcoming Tough Issues in Trial- Knowing Ourselves

December 26, 2011

Exploring who we are.

Today, we are the person we have become as a result of our individual life experiences and our choices.  Those life experiences include the good, the bad, and maybe, something we think is unspeakable.   Many will go through their entire life without thinking or looking at why they think, act, or react in this world.  Why is it important?  Why should we care?  Besides, isn’t it easier to ignore it and keep living life the same way we’ve been doing it?  Change isn’t easy, especially changing something that has been ingrained in us as a child.   I relate to Alfred Adler’s view, “there can no longer be any doubt that everything we call a body shows a striving to become a whole”. [1](Rogers, 1980 p. 113)  We lawyers all have that paper on our wall that says, “Attorney and Counselor at Law”.  Is that all we need to win?  What if we really listened to ourselves, our gut, and continued our search for ways to get better?

In 1975, John Ackerman was searching for better ways to teach lawyers.  While President of the National College for Criminal Defense, Ackerman was not satisfied with lecture style of teaching students, and was searching for a way to help lawyers become more creative, spontaneous, and intuitive so that they would be better able to deal with the constant changes in the courtroom.  He talked with John Johnson, a social worker, who after thinking and researching, came up with psychodrama. [2] (Nolte, 2008 p. 264-265)

Similarly, sensing I needed something more, I began searching for answers.  Everything I knew about lawyering came from other lawyers, many of which were doing it wrong.  Do you remember phrases like, “Can you be fair and impartial?” or “I take it by your silence that you can”  They were silent because it wasn’t real or genuine.  Jurors are intuitive and they can see right through the facades, and tricks, that we sometimes feel the urge to employ.  It isn’t productive and we know it.  Again, Gary Trichter was teaching and he said something like, “all lawyers need some psychotherapy”.   After searching the internet for “psychotherapy”, I found the Trial Lawyer’s College (TLC) in Wyoming founded by Gerry Spence in 1994.  Fortunately, Ackerman, with the help of John Johnson, had introduced psychodrama to his friend, Spence, who incorporated it into his Trial College from the beginning.  I think he saw psychodrama as a way to teach others what he had discovered in his journey.

Psychodrama was developed by Jacob L. Moreno.  He defined it as exploring the truth by dramatic methods.  We live in the same world with each other, but we all experience it differently.  My truth or perception of this world is different than yours and anyone on the jury.  Psychodrama explores an individual’s perception of the world or universe. [3] Although you can read about it in a book, psychodrama is learned best by experiencing it.  For me, it has helped me recognize and understand why I am the way I am and provides a way for me to explore other ways to live.  As an example, I now know that my well-bred reaction to feeling helpless is losing control and I now know why.  In addition, I’ve explored how anxiety, has gotten in the way of really being present in the courtroom, and in life.  At times, anxiety has been debilitating.

I told Carolynn to kick me if I started to lose my temper during the trial because I knew that the helpless feeling would come.  I knew that my own anxiety might get in the way, if I allowed it and  I knew that if it did, I wouldn’t be fully present with the jurors and would be unable to really hear them.  How does any of this apply to jury selection?  The panel is in front of us, and prosecutor is up doing what he was taught and it is looking ugly for us right now.


[1] Rogers, C. R. (1980) A Way of Being. New York: Houghton Mifflin Company

[2] Nolte, J. (2008) The Psychodrama Papers. Connecticut: Encounter Publications

[3] National Psychodrama Training Center, http://nationalpsychodramatrainingcenter.com/?page_id=13

Advertisements

Overcoming Tough Issues in Trial, a Series

December 21, 2011

Where should the lawyer begin?

People are asking questions like, “How did you overcome a .14 breath test?” I want to give them an answer, but I can’t do it quickly because it involves a combination of my life experiences. Many of which involve many other lawyers and friends along the journey or what Greg Westfall refers to as the “Process of Life”.

Why do I write this for anyone to read? Why spend the time to get this right? I feel a need to share what others have given me. With it, comes my need to fight the knaves that surely will come. I thank my friend, David Guinn, for sharing the poem “IF” by Rudyard Kipling. I especially relate to the part about “If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken, Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools”. Sometimes, the truth will strike a chord in us that will cause a reaction. It could be that any reaction is better than none. We can all learn from each other in this world, but we have to be open. Open to the possibility that there is more to this life than just going through the motions and merely existing until we die. Similarly, there can be, and should be, more to a trial than just going through the motions. I’ve learned from so many lawyers over the years and, at 50 years old, I still know there is much more to learn and that I don’t know it all. We, as lawyers, have the opportunity to make change in this world even if it is only one jury at a time. We have the ability to change clients, judges, prosecutors, jurors, and ourselves.

It is a little embarrassing to admit that this case was only my second trial with a breath test result above .14 in twelve (12) years. Well, admittedly, I’m not one of the self-proclaimed DWI Kings, or Dudes. Yes, I struggle with sarcasm, but truth is also important to me. Lawyers like Gary Trichter and Troy McKinney have paved the way and taught many of us how to win these, as well as other types of cases. They did it with passion and hard work, not slogans. As with respect, they’ve earned it and don’t have a need to demand it or sell anyone. For me, trying only, or mainly, DWI cases would become dull and boring, and I would lose the passion required to be effective. If it is only about the money, then we probably ought to do something different with the life given to us. To be effective, we have to invest ourselves, which requires our heart. As Gerry Spence says, “To win, you have to put it all in”.

When I first heard the phrase, they were just words that sounded good and right. Just like when he said, “It all begins with me”. I struggled with the phrase. It sounded so cocky and arrogant to me, until I realized it wasn’t “about” me. It begins with me, or us, because we have to know ourselves. I have to know why I am the way I am before I can be self-aware of what is happening with me and why. Knowing ourselves is also necessary in understanding others (the jury). I know that where it begins is probably deeper, but let’s begin with us. We have to find a way to explore or examine ourselves.