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Trial Prep

Feb. 1, 2014

“The will to win is not nearly so important as the wlll to prepare to win.”

- Vince Lombardi

When I talk about preparation, I am not talking about the standard preparation all lawyers must complete of depositions, record summary reviews and client interviews. I am talking about actual trial preparation, and what I am advocating may seem like overkill. That is by design. The only way that a real breakthrough can happen is absolute mastery of the facts and all the subtleties of the evidence. The great military strategist Carl Von Clausewitz advocated a force of at least five times the manpower of that of the opponent’s army to ensure victory. Jim Morrison put it into a lyric :“Five to one/baby one in five/ no one here gets out alive”. This is a reminder to us as trial lawyers that trial preparation is not a short or painless process. I firmly believe the level of preparation we should aspire to is five hours preparation to every one hour in the courtroom. Yes, five prep hours for every courtroom hour.

Now, my friend, I can hear you sitting in your airplane seat or on your living room couch and throwing your book or Ipad down and saying “Dill, I’ve got a practice to run. I don’t care what the Doors lead singer or some dead German general says. Five hours for every hour in court? Ain’t nobody got time for that!” My response is pick that book back up and listen to me: you have the time. We all know when the trial is coming. We all know what has to be done. We all know there is a big box marked “medical records” sitting on your office chair that we have picked at glanced at a summary. We know that old- fashioned preparation is the sweat equity that has to be paid to enjoy the winners circle. Give me the more prepared lawyer over the slick talking huckster every day of the week.

Sure, we were at the depositions so why bother reading them again and indexing them, by hand, when we have this cool new app that allows us to cut and paste? Why write out the opening statement, by hand, when we have done opening statements for years and somebody put a PowerPoint together? Why should we touch every document in the case and read it from top to bottom when this nurse paralegal typed it up for us in one sheet? Well in the words of Jules Winfield : “allow me to retort!”. The reason you are going to do these things is because you want to get money for your client. You cannot get money for your client, and by extension money for your family, unless you want to win. And picture that Packers’ coach whose quote appears a few paragraphs up telling you that the will to prepare to win is more important that wanting to win, and you get my meaning. Pull out that calendar and mark off the weekends or nights in the month leading up to your trial with these five letters TPREP. That is the way we used to bill the insurance companies when I was preparing for trial to money from plaintiffs, so that is the way I mark off preparation time to take money back from them and give it to my clients. It’s a karma thing.