If you have ever tried a jury trial, then you know there is always going to be more to learn and there are always going to be ways to continue to improve. It's rare that you don't sit down after an argument or after questioning a witness and say to yourself, “I meant to _____” (fill in the blank). It happens a lot.
I mention jury trials specifically, because it's rare anymore that you can get through a jury trial in one day. Yes, there are plenty of bench trials that take more than one day. But, in my experience, jury trials are different. It's not just because (again, in my experience) jury trials typically take longer, but there are other things that come to mind that you may not experience in a bench trial.
This blog is not about the law and jury trial preparation. Rather, it is about opportunities that present themselves in almost every jury trial I have ever been involved.
We get there early to make sure we are ready. We stay late to make sure we are prepared. Whether it is your adversary counsel, or your co-counsel (maybe even from a different office), attorneys often spend a significant amount of time talking to one-another as a trial date nears. It's not unusual when you have to talk to one-another about last minute depositions to redact or issues to address the night before the trial begins. You may end up talking late in the night after your adversary's kid's ballgame, the week of high school graduation or during a timeframe of some other significant family event. Its just part of it. As the trial date nears, life continues to go on as well.
During a jury trial, attorneys will normally have a lot of time to spend in the courtroom together waiting on the jury to arrive in the morning, return from lunch or when waiting on the verdict. During these “downtimes,” I have realized this is an opportunity to learn about more than just the law. This is also an opportunity to learn from and about your opposing counsel and/or co-counsel. You have an opportunity to learn about them, their families, their children, professional experiences, and so much more. I think this is an opportunity to build new relationships and strengthen current relationships where an opportunity may not have otherwise presented itself. You learn the person sitting across from you is not just your adversary attempting to shoot down many of the arguments you present.
Yes, jury trials can be contentious. They can be exhausting. They can bring out the best in you and sometimes the opposite. But, there is more to it. It is an opportunity to listen to and learn about who you are working with and what you learn may be remembered well-beyond the jury verdict. Regardless of the stage in your professional career, these are opportunities to continue to grow both professionally and personally.
Tommy Santel is a co-founding partner of Parkerson Santel PLLC. Tommy is a former government prosecutor. He is a Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 31 General Civil Mediator. Tommy’s practice areas include criminal defense and civil litigation.
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