Remember when you got your first haircut?
You probably didn’t want to do it. Someone likely made you. You resisted it, because it was a new experience. It felt dangerous and scary.
But in the end, you looked amazing (don’t be modest, now, you know you looked amazing)!
When it comes to trial practice, litigators can sometimes be like kids getting their first haircut. They don’t want anything to be cut or trimmed. Trial lawyers will often doggedly hold on to each idea, witness, claim, defense, demonstrative, Powerpoint slide…anything. They subscribe to the “more is more” theory.
The only trouble is that “more is more” rarely works in the context of a trial.
Learning how to edit your trial isn’t always easy. But it brings with it huge advantages.
I’m devoting the next few articles in The Winning Litigator® Blog to discussing the ins and outs of editing trials. As we talk about ways to get lean and mean at trial, carry in your pocket the following mantra, which you can pull out whenever you become unnerved by excising parts of your trial:
Master the Case. Don’t Let the Case Master You.
Why You Should Give Your Trial a Haircut
There are many reasons why you should consider trimming any trial. Here are 10 great ones to start:
1. A trial with unnecessary claims, witnesses, documents, or details appears unfocused and lacking in merit.
2. Preparing for an unedited trial takes you away from the portions of the trial that are the most important.
3. Editing your trial forces you to scrutinize each component of the trial, and assess its true contribution to the case.
4. An unedited trial will ultimately prevent you from highlighting with sufficient force the areas of your case that require emphasis. Important items are diluted and float out into what I call “the sea of unnecessary stuff.” Showing everything to the jury can be like showing nothing.
5. Editing your jury trial in advance will help you avoid losing credibility with the jury — which can, in turn, carry over into your stronger claims. (See my earlier post on eliminating unnecessary claims: “Legal Drafting: The Extra Ornament Can Ruin Christmas“).
6. Unedited trials cost more money to prepare for and put on.
7. Judges don’t like trials that are unreasonably long. You lose credibility with the court when you fail to edit. And sometimes the judge will do the editing for you. You may not like the result.
8. Juries dislike unreasonably long trials even more than judges.
9. Editing your trial reinforces your ability to lead your trial team, and positively affects your team’s sense of mission and morale.
and here’s the biggest and most compelling reason to edit your trial…
10. Attorneys who try cases that are unedited and unfocused lose more trials. Losing trials can cost you clients and money. It can affect your reputation in future cases with clients, opposing counsel, insurance carriers and judges. Most important of all, losing trials can be emotionally devastating and damage your quality of life.
Given these reasons, you can see why it’s a great idea to give your jury trial — or bench trial — the haircut it needs.
I’ll leave you with some brief words from the great American societal commentator, Fran Lebowitz:
“You’re only as good as your last haircut.”
So grab a pair of scissors and get ready to edit.