Articles Posted in Human Dynamics of Trial

On August 31, 2010, while on the airplane returning from the week long “interactive” training I generally attend every year in Dubois, Wyoming at the Trial Lawyers College, the thought that weighs heavy on my mind is how do I keep the gifts or lessons learned in the forefront of my mind when I return to my daily life and trial work. This experience each year has generally a good one, both personally and professionally. But it seems this time the experiences were extraordinary this year; for one thing, having a roommate for nine days was extraordinary. But kidding aside, the gifts or lessons taken away from attending my ninth “Trial Lawyers College” post graduate program were seemingly much more powerful this time.

What makes this experience so extraordinary is not so much applying or learning methods of how to be a better trial lawyer or communicator, but the realization that our lives, if they are to be full, are based on relationships we form with ourselves, other people and our world.

In order to have fully developed relationships we have to understand and know who we are. This not only means understanding our feelings about certain issues and thoughts we may have, it also means accepting ourselves for who we are, the good parts and the not so good parts. The exercises and methods employed by the College, whether you are involved in the re-enactment of a personal event of your life, your client’s life, a witnesses’ life or merely observing others doing these things, enables you understand that we all have common issues merely because we are human beings. Watching someone’s reenactment of an important event makes us remember similar events in our lives and can bring back feelings about an event that happened 25 years ago that we may have thought of for many years. Or, we may experience how that event that occurred so long ago makes us feel now, in the present moment. Most of us certainly don’t think we can “feel” an event again five, ten or twenty-five years later but we can using the many methods, including those developed by J. L. Moreno, M.D., the creator of psychodramatic methods.

Once we get to the place where we feel, rather than think about the past event, our truths reveal themselves. Some people don’t want to go to such places; they have compartmentalized an event and don’t want their initial interpretation of the event from long ago to get “out of the box” again. (If we even realize we have stuffed the event and true feelings in a box). A big problem is that our initial interpretation of an event may be wrong and, by “re-feeling” the event, we may re-frame the entire event and find the real truth.

I wish there was a way to keep the feelings, compassion, empathy, understanding and love we have for others after leaving this program permanently ingrained in our psyches. It seems that once returning to the world and culture that I currently live in, I allow the stressers, daily crises, and extraordinary problem solving requirements of being a trial lawyer to forget I can access these qualities of innate human nature that can make life, and practicing law, so much more fulfilling.
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Learning Why Some People Need or Want Power

31243181_21302298_002.jpg Abraham Lincoln once said: “Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.” The phenomenon called “power” changes most human beings lives and personalities. We see what can happen to the personalities of some lawyers when they assume the powerful role of judges. We can even see what happens to some lawyers when they become successful – some forget what enabled them to become successful to begin with, often times humility, extremely hard work and extreme preparation and an openness and willingness to learn from others.

As effective advocates for our clients we should make an effort to understand what can happen to a person when they are appointed to be a state or federal prosecutor. What pressures are on them? Do they get judged by their superiors by the number of cases they take to trial or are they judged by the number of trials they win? What pressure would be on us if we worked in their office? How much discretion do they have over their cases? By understanding them better, I believe we can be more effective advocates for our clients.

People in Positions of Authority

Certainly prosecutors are in a “position of authority” as are many of us in some form or fashion. Before becoming a state public defender in Pensacola 21 years ago, I spent a few years as a Florida State Prosecutor. I can still remember how it felt to be the “proverbial good guy with the white hat” (my boss told me that), the sense of power having a badge gave me and how it felt when I began my new job right out of law school as a new prosecutor. For goodness sakes, I was able to make decisions about the proprieties of arrests by law enforcement officers who had many more years of experience than I did! I also remember the “cloak of credibility” jurors seemed to give me merely because it seemed I was on the “good guys team.” (Something else my old boss told me).

Like many people, being a prosecutor was my first job out of law school. I was fortunate that being a prosecutor was not the first job I ever had in my life. I was economically very poor during different parts of my life and financially struggled to get through college and law school. This still didn’t instill in me an understanding that the fact I had a law degree really meant very little when it came to trying jury trials. In fact, much of what I learned and who I had become because of the law school experience hindered my effectiveness in the courtroom. Albeit I had some “life experience” I still didn’t fully appreciate, at least to the extent I do now, the power I instantly had over people’s lives merely because of the job I held.