Tuesday, March 13, 2007


The Albany Lawyer posts a fun exchange from a recent trial on his blog. I have to say that I've never managed to snap off a witty bon mot during a trial. Which, on a slow Tuesday, I'll turn into one of those "life lesson" sorts of posts that I wish I'd read as a law student. In other words, my opinion and perspective which can be easily disregarded should you so choose.

Trials are the most visible and publicly-recognized aspect of American lawyering. They are also, relative to the number of cases filed in most courts, exceedingly rare. Further, a lot of what the average lawyer handles in daily practice will never be part of an adversarial proceeding. I know some attorneys, including managing and senior partners at several firms, who have never argued a case at trial. Some of this is due to the area of practice: estates work, traditionally, hasn't involved much litigation (although a local attorney recently stated she's frustrated with the increasing amount of trial practice in that field). Some real estate, corporate work and parts of the booming IP field both are research/counseling/paperwork heavy and don't involve appearances.

The point I'm building toward is this: the trial, on tv or in the moot court society of your local law school, has an inflated importance. Making and defending your arguments while distinguishing and disproving your opponent's positions: a necessary and vital part of the legal experience. Doing so orally via a combination of oral testimony and the arcane NY rules of evidence? Not so much. The trial is an important part of the legal experience, but it isn't the be-all of it as presented in the media. Some people, like the Albany Lawyer, do well in a trial-heavy practice. Others have found a happy career researching and writing, or counseling clients, or doing many other things that don't bring them into a courtroom on a regular basis. In short, if you love trial work, you have a great shot as a lawyer, but if you don't, don't get discouraged and think it isn't for you just because your law school or NBC tv seems to revolve the trial as the highest calling.


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