What does it takes to be successful in the courtroom?
Dallas, TX trial attorney Warren Burns gives insightful advice on how to achieve ultimate success when trying a case in the courtroom and his typical process on pursuing a win.
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Clients of my associates often ask me as we’re entering into a relationship or as I’m advising them as we’re working, “What does it take?” “What does it take in the courtroom to win?” Because that’s what we’re all focused on, right? That’s the goal at the end of the day. And I think from the trial lawyers perspective – at least mine – there are three critical pieces that every trial lawyer has to have when he walks in the courtroom or when she walks into the courtroom and puts his client’s case on before the judge or jury.
The first, I think, is fundamental and it’s one I think we all should be aware of. It’s one that I try to drill into my associates here at Burns Charest. It’s that you have to be true to yourself before you can convince anyone to believe you or to accept your client’s story. You have to know your own voice. You have to know who you are as a person. Because ultimately, that jury, that judge, they’re connecting with you as an individual. So, you can’t go in with any airs. You can’t go in trying to put a hat that you don’t ordinarily wear.
The second point that I would make is that your client’s case has to be your own. You have got to believe in that client’s case. And look, everyone has a story to tell. Whether you’re on the defense side, whether you’re on the plaintiff side, if your client doesn’t believe in your case, you’re not going to win. You just aren’t. And that requires putting yourself in your client’s shoes, walking the walk that they’re making, trying to figure out how best to communicate that to the jury.
The third point that probably goes without saying but I think it’s also one of the most critical for any trial lawyer is look, if there were three rules to any trial, it would be: prepare, prepare, and prepare some more. It’s hard work. Anyone tells you different isn’t much of a trial lawyer. There are long nights involved. You’ve got to know the testimony. You’ve got to know what’s coming out.
I, personally, when I go into trial, I write out every single question that I intend to ask in a direct examination or cross examination. I write out my openings and closings. That doesn’t mean I memorize them or go by rote when I’m doing any of those activities. But, it’s part of my preparation. It’s part of what makes me feel confident and successful enough to go in there and represent my client and go in and tell their story effectively.