Who was a mentor to you in the practice of law and what did you learn from this person?
Dallas, TX trial attorney Daniel Charest talks about two important figures in his life and the influence they had on him in practicing law.
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On the issue of mentors, for me, I think of two people primarily although, to be honest with you there’s lot of people, I try and learn from everybody. But there are two people that stick out in my mind as a young lawyer that made a massive impression on me and the first is a fellow by the name of Bill Carmody who is a lawyer now working in New York for Susman Godfrey but he was in Dallas when I first started in Dallas. And was in fact, on my first trial team.
I went to trial with him, gosh, before I even passed the bar, I was working on his trial team in a small case, smallish case down in Waxahachie, Texas. And we tried the case and just to see the level of effort that the entire trial team put in and the organization that Carmody put behind it. And then, to take what seemed to me to be this just dizzying array of facts and in fairness it wasn’t really that complex a case but as a young lawyer it was amazing. But he takes this constellation of information and to guide it into meaningful and effective presentations. And to articulate all of that to the judge and to the jury I thought was amazing.
And he also taught me a lot about depositions about how to take a deposition and how to plan for what you want before you go ask for it. And I think a lot of folks take depositions and just seeing what happens. And for us, it’s all about, you know, in my mind I’ve got a brief in my head or already written that has this insert that I’m waiting for and I know what I’m looking for. And if you’re searching for something that you know what you’re looking for and if you’re searching for something and you know what you’re looking for you’re much more likely to find it than just stumbling across.
So that was Bill about being organized looking for being effective in your communication, thinking about what you’re doing, and putting it into action rather than sort of what you see a lot of times is just haphazard, random sort of words that come out of people’s mouths. So that, I think, I really credit him with that a lot.
And the other one is Steve Susman, I mean you can’t work at Susman Godfrey and not take a lot from Steve because he taught an entire firm and through that, me, when I was there lawyers how to be lawyers. And how to be efficient in your thinking, plan ahead, ignore the nonsense, and focus on the wins. When I talk about charting a course to success, I’m thinking about exactly something that Steve told me and Bill as well is you’re here, you know what you need to win in the trial. If you don’t need it to win in the trial it just doesn’t matter. And that sort of concept, I think, is something that drives us.
And finally, another thing I take from Steve is just his courtroom presence. I don’t know that anyone can really mimic it accurately or achieve it as well but I try and draw on his confidence, on his presence and you’re neither cowering before the judge but you’re also not ignoring the judge. And he does well, he has that rapport with judges that you hope to have. And so that’s in my mind as an advocate, as a person standing on your feet arguing a motion or talking to a jury that’s what I try and channel to the best that I can.