Dallas Trial Consulting Attorney – Strategy, Juror Selection, Mock Trials
When it comes to a trial, winning is what matters. As a lawyer, your client expects nothing less than your best.
I help lawyers excel at trial through enhancing legal strategies, determining how to present a case to jurors and judges in a way that will best resonate with them, and capitalizing on hidden opportunities to increase the chance of winning.
To do so, I help lawyers with:
- Presenting a case with clarity. I help lawyers find, develop and present their strongest case with the greatest emotional impact.
- Developing the story. I help lawyers develop the story behind the case in a way that drives the outcome.
- Empowering a case through visuals. It’s important to understand that in the Internet generation, jurors don’t want information from testimony alone. Powerful visuals can speed up the case, lessen boredom and help jurors identify the outcome your client wants. I help lawyers develop visuals to sell their case.
- Jury analysis. Not only is jury selection critical, knowing how and what to present is also key. Lawyers often fail to focus on the veniremen, the method and impact of the selection process, and often the jury itself, once empaneled. I help them see their way through every step of this process, to their fullest advantage.
- Presenting to a judge. Cases tried to a judge require different strategies than to a jury. I help develop effective approaches in bench trials.
- Mock trials. Mock trials allow lawyers and clients to learn from real jurors about how witnesses, testimony and arguments will be viewed. If cost-effective, I help lawyers use mock trials to find and hone the best approach.
- Witness preparation. A witness’s testimony may be good or bad. In either case, the impact may be enhanced or diminished. I help lawyers find these potential pitfalls and footholds before trial and/or relevant discovery.
Witnesses who are not fully prepared may fall victim to cross-examination techniques used routinely to discredit any testimony. I can help you sort these out.
I invite you to call me to learn how I can be a value-added resource to your trial team when the stakes are high.
Here’s more information about how I might be able to help you. At this point in my practice, I’m doing this because I enjoy it. I’m not going to charge you to talk to you initially about your case.
Why My Experience Can Help
I’ve been fortunate enough to try 300 jury trials to verdict. Due in large part to my early criminal prosecution days, I’ve spent a great deal of time trying serious cases. Most of my prosecutions were First Degree Felonies – murder, armed robbery, rape, burglary, and drug cases. On the day I was hired by the Dallas D.A.’s office, my boss handed me a one-page outline and pushed me out through a big wooden door into the courtroom. It was brim full. As I walked in, a judge, defendant, defense lawyer and thirty bored, frustrated people looked over at me. I said, “May it please the Court,” introduced myself and proceeded.
It was my job to pick a jury that day, and the trials didn’t slow down after that. I picked a jury or put on evidence once or twice a week, for five more years. The job included all related tasks. The list is long – investigation, dealing with law enforcement, plea bargains, discussions with opposing counsel, drafting indictments, reading “beef sheets,” witness prep, direct examination, cross, motions to suppress, evidentiary hearings, jury selection, final arguments, notes from panels (“Does the defendant have access to the names and addresses of the jurors?”) and post-trial interviews of jurors.
After I left the D.A.’s office, I entered solo general practice and tried all manner of cases for many years. Civil, criminal defense, personal injury, wrongful death, divorce, family law, probate, engineering issues, professional (lawyer, doctor, engineer, etc.) liability, fraud, securities fraud, commercial cases, contracts, real estate, banking, medical malpractice, and so on. I worked equally on both sides of the docket (plaintiff and defendant). I was Board Certified in Civil Trials by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization (’94), and have handled cases around the country, from Puerto Rico to Alaska, New York to California, and all over Texas. All of that experience gave me invaluable understanding of the trial process involving courts, procedures, judges (good and bad, fair and otherwise), and juries in particular, in friendly and unfriendly environs, highbrow and low brow.
What I love most about all this is hard to say – but it’s somewhere around jury selection, voir dire, opening statements, dealing with (and helping) good and bad witnesses, smart and otherwise, witness prep, direct and cross-examination (a favorite), courtroom procedures, working with judges, dealing with opposing counsel, encountering recalcitrant and over-prepared witnesses, and of course a wide assortment of underhanded tactics, engaged in by accomplished lawyers, good and not so good, done well and not so well.
I’m AV rated, have never been sanctioned, and don’t make a practice of suing lawyers or filing motions for sanctions.
Pitfalls abound, as you already know. These include the standard, road-worn tactics –useless discovery responses, false plausible arguments, claims and defenses that can’t be tested, fair and unfair questions, sneaky transpositions of good and bad facts, misleading exhibits and jury aids, and a panoply of other ordinary and bizarre tactics.
Appeals, too. I have also been fortunate enough to handle appeals on all sides of the docket, civil and criminal, in numerous jurisdictions, including U.S. Circuit Courts of Appeals, the Texas appellate courts and Supreme Court, and the U.S. Supreme Court. In four decades of practice, I’ve been fortunate to follow my passion in this manner, having spent well over 10,000 hours engaged in jury proceedings alone.
I greatly enjoy helping lawyers young and old, and subject to my schedule, I’m happy to talk to you about your case to see if I can help.
My approach almost always goes beyond the legal merits. I try to help lawyers find the best way to communicate to jurors and judges. You have to put the hay where the sheep can get it. The opportunity can be gone in a flash, but sometimes it can be resurrected.
Finding the right hook
Lawyers’ emotions are drilled out of them. They are taught that emotions are misleading. Yes and no. The great trial lawyers – Joe Jamail for example, or Gerry Spence, Steve Susman, David Boies, William Kunstler, Edward Bennet Williams, Percy Foreman, Lincoln, and many others – find an emotional hook on which to base their cases, with uncanny success. Whether it’s Gerry Spence, who finds a way to say, “We don’t want your sympathy, we want money,” or Joe Jamail, who won a billion-dollar verdict by convincing jurors that a handshake is enforceable in Texas unless you’re from New York, great lawyers use emotion to make their points. It takes practice, and sometimes you have to unlearn what you think you know.
Have you ever had a juror tell you after a verdict, that they “just didn’t like” a witness, the other the lawyer, or you? Or had a juror turn his chair toward the wall? Or seen a lawyer fold an exhibit into a paper airplane and sail it into the jury box, to the chuckles of jurors and outrage of the court? Or watch a prosecutor stack up pill containers on the jury rail, then sling a few dozen of them around the courtroom? A jailed defendant set his hair on fire? A judge dive down under his desk in the bench in the presence of the jury? These experiences give me a lot of context in helping you decide what to do and not to do, and how.
In sum, employing and dealing with emotion does not come naturally for most lawyers. Let’s face it – most jurors didn’t have Kingston for contracts. The gap is understandable, because most lawyers don’t have the chance. They are hard-wired by other logical types with similar gaps in their own experience, including most big-firm attorneys. These are often brilliant people who simply haven’t had the opportunity or inclination. That can leave a hole in their — or your – case. There is usually a way to respond to this, counter it, or build it back in, if you don’t wait too long.
Whether you are a big or small firm lawyer, or how you want to deal with appearances, I can help you. As it’s been said, there’s no end to what you can accomplish, if you don’t mind who gets the credit. I’m perfectly fine with that. I don’t have to be on the pleadings, appear, argue, or be present, unless you want me to. I can stay way in the background, e.g., as “shadow counsel.” I like that approach. Whatever works.
Avoiding the paint-by-the-numbers Approach
Your client often doesn’t know how to help. She may think she needs to tell you what to say and how to say it. She may be right, or not. She may have theories on why her case should prevail, and demand attention to points you “must” make. This doesn’t always work out for her good. Edward Bennett Williams told the press in his heyday that he would represent anybody, as long as they would pay up front and give him total control. You may not want or need “total” control, but you have to be able to develop your case. I can help you with that.
Reality usually wins. Believe it or not, reality is your ace in the hole. Most lawyers don’t see it or feel it, or they toss it early on. Some great lawyers are fog machines who make it as difficult as possible to connect with the real facts. But real juries and real judges tend to rule in favor of real people, flaws and all, who have real controversies, who aren’t arguing for the sake of argument, who admit their mistakes, and who make a sincere plea for relief. And they usually see through the fog, if given a chance.
“Just the facts, ma’am,” usually doesn’t. The typical approach – A, B, C, D, etc. – and skip the emotion – is very different from what people have to deal with in their everyday lives. To say nothing of sitting in the central jury room for three hours, walking into a cold, sterile courtroom, sitting on a hard bench with a judge, bailiff and a bunch of lawyers looking them over, being lectured like a high school student, waiting forever, paying for their own lunch, being sent in and out of the courtroom for no apparent reason, and being confronted by snarky lawyers who drag on and on. Don’t do that! It’s like sending the jury to the dentist!