Every Los Angeles Trial Lawyer’s Goal: Persuasion

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Los Angeles trial lawyers probably deal with the most diverse jury pools of any attorneys in the country.  And the attorneys themselves–whether they are business attorneys, divorce attorneys, criminal attorneys or something else–also come from a variety of backgrounds and utilize a variety of approaches to trying lawsuits.  In David Berg’s book “The Trial Lawyer:  What It Takes To Win”, he has a good section on persuasion and effective trial advocacy.  Not surprisingly these tips can be helpful to businessmen, salespeople and everyone else since persuasion is a key element of everything we do.  Here are a few excerpts.

Trial Attorneys Should Tell A Compelling Story

“We all love a good story, and jurors are no exception.  To hold their attention, you must present your case in the form of a story.  Organize your facts as if they were a work of fiction.  Put together a narrative that builds to a climax and features clearly defined characters.  Construct your story around an overarching moral or theme.  For inspiration, think about the great themes in literature–good v. evil, justice v. injustice, pride v. humility, greed v. generosity.  They have held up for centuries because they tap into our common human experience.

The right theme also makes the legal issues more accessible.  For example, fraud is a concept far removed from the daily lives of jurors.  However, at the heart of every fraud case is a betrayal of trust.  That is a concept everyone can understand and identify with, because we have all experienced it.

Successful Attorneys Must Humanize Clients And Key Witnesses

“In every case, there are barriers that separate the jury from your client and key witnesses.  Money, education, job status, and social standing are common ones.  But it doesn’t matter if you represent an injured worker or the largest corporation in America:  You must tear down those barriers and reveal the humanity common to both sides.”

The Trial Attorney Himself Must Warm Up The Courtroom

“Don’t forget to be human yourself.  Transform the sterility of the courtroom with warmth, sincerity, and humor.”

In Litigation The Attorney Must Earn The Jurors’ Trust’; Trust The Jury

Jurors don’t distinguish between lawyers and their clients.  For that reason, you can’t produce a good result for your client unless the jury trusts you.  To earn that trust, you have to be candid about your case from the beginning–the lawyer jurors depend on to tell the whole story and set the record straight.  If you inadvertently make a misstatement, ass we all do during trial, admit the mistake, apologize if it’s serious, clear it up, and move on.  If jurors believe that you have consciously misled them about a single significant fact, their trust will be broken completely.”

A Prepared Attorney Sets The Agenda

“If you want a decisive verdict, jurors’ hearts have to race when you talk about your case.  By the time you sit down from opening, you want to leave jurors with an impression so vivid they won’t forget it, and your opponent so overwhelmed he can’t dislodge it.  That sets the agenda for the entire trial.

Trial Victory Hinges On Proving That Standards Have Been Violated Or Upheld

“It is an unwritten law of the governed and the enduring credo of juries:  Everyone must play by the rules.  A group of strangers can reach agreement on a verdict because we all react similarly to proof that standards have been violated or upheld.”

Notice to Trial Attorneys:  Don’t Run From Your Weaknesses

“Your worst facts are generally your opponent’s greatest strength–especially if you run from them.  Whenever possible, bring them up first.  Pull the teeth of your adversary’s arguments and cross.  If you admit, embrace, and explain your bad facts, you reduce their impact.  If you can’t go first, don’t be defensive about them.  Be ready with a powerful and direct response.  Moreover, openly discussing your weaknesses sends a signal of strength to the jury.  If you are willing to admit your client’s mistakes, jurors assume your case must be strong.”

Attorneys (And Their Clients) Must Make The Jury Mad (At The Other Side)

“This is the unspoken constant of jury trials.  Jurors give favorable verdicts to people they like, but they return great verdicts when they get mad at the other side.  Whether you represent the plaintiff or defendant, inflame their passions and send them out made.  Inspire them to return a decisive verdict that reflects their indignation.  Finally, don’t underestimate the power of your opponents to alienate the jury totally on their own.  Jurors take dishonest and deceit personally, turning instantly on lawyers and witnesses they perceive are misleading them.  When something like that happens, don’t pile on, or you’ll risk creating sympathy.  Stay patient and calm.  Let the other side destroy itself.”

A good trial attorney is a good persuader.  These key elements to persuasion are the key to any effective trial presentation.

Laine T. Wagenseller is a trial attorney with Wagenseller Law Firm in Los Angeles.  He has handled many trials and arbitrations of real estate and business lawsuits.



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