A few weeks ago, I interviewed a client. She currently had an attorney, but wanted to make a change. We talked about her case, but she asked me a lot of questions about my trial experience. For example: How many trials had I actually done? How many trials I had I actually won? What did I think about going to trial? What are some of the trial strategies that I use? What was my view point about the pros and cons of trial?
Our meeting ended and she informed me that she would re-contact me about her decision to retain me or not.
Almost three weeks later, she re contacted me with a decision to hire me as her lawyer. I asked her a few things about her decision-making process, and here’s what she told me. First, she interviewed 6 attorneys. This is not usual – and that let me know that she was taking this decision seriously, and conducted her due diligence. Second, she informed me that most attorneys are not trial lawyers. This I already knew, but I did not understand the importance of what this means to clients. The majority of lawyers out there are not trial lawyers. They are competent lawyers, but they do not have the extensive trial experience that can only be gained through years of education and experience. In my case, she reminded me that I was a graduate of the Gerry Spence Trial Lawyers College, a graduate of the National Institute of Trial Advocacy, and a graduate of Houston South Texas College of Law Trial Institute. Yes, I knew this, but the significance had escaped me after almost 30 years of practice.
Additionally, she reminded me of the importance of my actual trial experience. Including all areas of law, I’ve probably done more than 1000 actual trials, of various lengths. There’s a big difference between 1000 and even 200. She informed me that all of the other attorneys whom she interviewed with had significantly less than 200 actual trials in their 10 to 15 year careers. She informed me that one of the attorneys bragged that he had never done a trial, seemingly to bolster his skills as a negotiator and settlement attorney.
But, she correctly surmised that a lawyer has to be skilled and experienced in order to obtain favorable judgments; but had to have the experience and fearlessness to take a case to trial. She reminded me that there is a big difference between NFL quarter back Payton Manning his rookie year, and the field general we now see every Sunday.
So, my advice is: Whenever you are interviewing an attorney inquire about his/her trial education and experience. Sometimes doing 100 trials is not the same as doing 1000 trials.