I am writing this now at the tail end of my first experience in a full-blown trial. The date is March 2020 and I’ve been practicing law since October of 2013. That’s 6.5 years of practicing as a trial attorney before experiencing my first trial--3 years after we first filed it. As they say, 95% or more of cases never reach a jury. Looking back, I can tell you this: A trial is a massive production, and the fact that so many cases don’t make it to trial is no surprise.
The trial process is all-consuming for an attorney. The resources needed to put on a large-scale commercial trial are simply staggering. For this one, I spent the better part of the month preparing for the ordeal. This requires reviewing and refining discovery responses; having a plan for every exhibit and piece of evidence; motions in limine, which the Court hears before the trial begins; having a process in place for jury selection; repeated and continuous interviews with your client and other important witnesses along with refining your testimony outlines; and full days or near full days for the opening arguments, closing arguments, the charge conference where you sit down with the Judge to hammer out the jury’s questionnaire on the law. The actual putting on of evidence is a smaller piece of the process than you realize; however, in many ways it’s the most strenuous and critical part.
A jury trial can be generally broken into two pieces: (1) the litigation surrounding the production to the jury, including various motions and other matters that need to take place outside earshot of the jury; and (2) the actual production for the jury. Respecting this distinction is sacrosanct--the jury MUST only hear the evidence that is meant for it, and must not be permitted to hear or be exposed to other information that could be prejudicial. Having a carefully constructed plan that prepares your whole case for that moment when the evidence needed is ultimately admitted and delivered cannot be understated.
As I sit here awaiting the jury to come back and render a verdict, I ponder and reflect on the litigation I ran over these three full years with the client. In retrospect, there are many things I would have done differently, had I more familiarity with the details of the jury trial process. But that’s what it means to be an actively-practicing attorney; to constantly find ways to improve oneself.
Having jury trial experience is undoubtedly a boon to a piece of litigation, and I am looking forward to seeing how my experience gets reflected in my practice going forward, and how it will impact my ability to serve my clients. I couldn’t have done it without the mentorship of my partner, Mike Wimer, who has been through this process many times. If you want attorneys with real trial experience, call Asheville Legal today.