Tuesday, January 3, 2012


This issue is near and dear to my heart, since I lack a penis - how to be a better trial lawyer without emulating other trial lawyers with different physical "characteristics." Now, it is undisputed that most trial lawyers are men. Men have historically been the fighters on our planet. Men can be strong,and fierce and brave, and so can women. People of different genders may just approach lawyering differently.  Man and women can learn from each other. 

I have been a woman all of my life and a female trial lawyer for the past 253+ years, trying over 7,000 jury trials (perhaps a slight exaggeration). Based on my many years as an estrogen-laden trial lawyer, these are some of the traits that make trial lawyers more effective:


Self-confidence  -  or the absence of self-consciousness.   This is probably the hardest attribute to achieve.  Lack of self-consciousness is a difficult skill to develop.  You must developing a very thick skin or believe in yourself that it doesn't matter if you are personally attacked.  It means realizing that those lawyers who attack you or your client are doing so from a position of weakness.  The absence of self-consciousness, or the lack of self-centered-ness, comes from believing in oneself.  Most people are born with some self-consciousness, some insecurity.  Selfish insecurity has no place in advocacy. Our job is to put our clients' interests ahead of our own.  I know of no way to eliminate insecurity without engaging in some form of self-exploration. We all have demons. We all have weaknesses. We need to be okay about who we are before we can put our clients first. Recognizing our own faults and foibles, and owning up to them, will set us free.  

To become self-confident, it is essential to be self-critical. This means a lawyer may need  to undergo counseling, psychodrama, or read self-help books or do whatever takes you out of your skin. Being a good trial lawyer is not about you or your ego.  Egos get in the way of effective advocacy.

To overcome fear, prepare. Be the most prepared lawyer in the courtroom. Care about what you are doing. Believe in your client and in your client's case. 


The ability to empathize with our clients and with everyone else in the courtroom is essential.  When it comes to others, we must understand and empathize. Compassion is essential.   We need to look at a trial as more than a battle.  We need to understand what are clients are going through.   We need to listen. Listening, true listening, is a selfless act. We need to care, about our clients and about justice. What we do must matter to us. 


This is where a little testosterone comes in handy. We can't stand by the wayside and hope things come out okay. We must jump into the fray, leap off that cliff.  After all, this is not about our egos. We are furthering justice. 


Persistence is the key. Need I say more. 


Some lawyers are big and commanding, some are small and soft. We need not change who we are, we need to embrace who we are. Many women have soft voices. Sometimes that softness comes from fear, but more often it is just a part of who we are.  Should we shout to be heard?  I think not. We must be true to ourselves. I would much rather see a woman lawyer with a portable microphone than hear a judge repeatedly criticize a woman for being soft-spoken. Revel in who you are. If you are sweet and soft-spoken in life; in trial, be sweet and soft-spoken. Be who you are.  Love who you are.  Care about yourself, your client and justice. Treat everyone, including yourself, with respect. Play to your strengths. 

6.  HAVE FUN.   

Love your clients, love yourself and follow your passion.  Relish in what you do. How many people are as lucky as you to be able to do what you love. 


Most trial ayers I know have overcome a great deal of adversity in life. Remember what that feels like.  Feel. We are humans with feelings. Care. 

This article did not turn out as I had envisioned. It's not so much about gender, but more about humanity. Being a trial lawyer can be a very honorable thing to do. Don't screw it up.  The judicial system is the bedrock of civilization. Don't forget the honor in this profession. And don't chase ambulances. It makes the rest of us look bad. 


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