CROSSING TO CLOSE: Hostility
Cross-examination is the first of the Essential Skills that a Litigator must be excellent at to accomplish his Mission. To be excellent...
Trying cases before juries you come to realize that it’s not a good idea to appear to be too darn smart. Particularly when you are still young (say, less than forty), most jurors don’t want some smart young guy making them feel even more miserable about their jury duty by rubbing their faces in his big brain.
On the other hand, Litigation requires leadership. You can’t influence the jurors to a positive outcome if they think you’re an idiot. Who would follow an idiot anywhere, except maybe another idiot.
So there is a bit of a dilemma there. How does a Litigator be smart about what he’s doing without appearing to be too smart while he’s doing it? My answer: by being doggedly determined to advance the client’s interests without sacrificing one’s humility and good nature.
That’s a simple formula, but it’s not an easy one to put into practice because there is nothing easy about Litigation—it’s a Grind. Doing it well requires constant vigilance and a consistent desire to improve one’s skills. To stay on the Grind, a lawyer must learn that a Litigator is an influencer of events rather than a director of them.
I wish I had a seven-step plan that a newly minted lawyer could learn to be a happy Litigator. That would be a holy grail worth pursuing. Unfortunately, there is no such thing—at least that I have ever found. Instead, what I do have is a set of Philosophies and Techniques that I have learned the hard way over the years through the Grind. Because they are things that I wish I had known when I started, I’ve written them down here with the hope that they will be helpful to young lawyers who want to be Litigators and stay on the Grind.