On September 28, 2017, I graduated from Trial Lawyer’s College in Dubious, Wyoming.
What is the Trial Lawyer’s College?
Gerry Spence started the Trial Lawyer’s College in the early 1990s. It focuses only on helping criminal-defense attorneys and personal-injury attorneys become better lawyers. Insurance defense attorneys or prosecutors cannot attend it. It’s sole purpose is to help attorneys that represent the people fight against insurance companies and the government.
The college lasted 24 days. It started off with helping the students become better people. Then, it progressed to trial skills.
The faculty themselves were extremely impressive, easily the top civil and criminal attorneys in the United States. For an idea of their talent, many of the civil lawyers had multi-million dollar verdicts, and the criminal-defense lawyers defended people on death row. The best of the best.
The faculty taught us everything from voir dire (also known as jury selection), opening statements, direct examination, cross examination, and closing arguments. Most importantly, it taught us more than being better lawyers. It also helped us become a better person.
What did it teach you?
The better question is what didn’t it teach me. Most importantly, it helped me become a better person. I listen better. I understand what’s important in a case. I’m not afraid of connecting with my client or the jury emotionally.
As for trial skills, the biggest thing it taught me is that I’m not afraid of going to trial. Instead, trials have incredible meaning behind them. Some of the most important issues in the United States – if not the world – are decided every day in courtrooms in front of a jury. A jury can decide what we value as a society, what “justice” means, and can correct the government’s, a person’s, or a company’s wrongdoing.
Most attorneys see a trial as something to be feared. They don’t want to go to trial, so they settle their client’s case for less than it’s worth. They write out everything, stick to what they wrote, and read boring things.
Instead, being yourself, connecting with the jury, and doing everything in your power to tell the truth of the client’s story to the jury is what’s most important.
I was also able to practice voir dire (jury selection) with Mr. Spence critiquing me.
Moreover, the other students I met there were impressive and amazing in their own right. The friendships I made there were some of the strongest I’ve ever made in my life. They are amazing people and lawyers.
Why should clients care about this training?
If a client has any desire to get justice – either a criminal defendant or an injured plaintiff – they need a lawyer who will fight to the end for them. That means they need to be ready, willing, and able take the case to a jury trial.
They also need a lawyer who will listen to what they have to say, see them as a person, and value them as a person. They are not a “client,” a case number, or a file folder. If the lawyer doesn’t care about the person, the jury won’t either.
Often, a prosecutor or an insurance defense attorney will not make a good offer unless it believes the other attorney wants to and is able to take a case to trial. Prosecutors and insurance-defense attorneys know who goes to trial and who doesn’t. The lawyer who doesn’t want to go to trial – and instead wants to settle – will try to force the client to take a bad deal just to settle the case. Instead of presenting both sides honestly, they’ll present only one side and say things to scare the client into taking a deal.
Trial Lawyer’s College changed my life and my practice.
Hopefully, I’ve described just how important Trial Lawyer’s College was to me and my practice. Simply put, it changed my life, the person I am, and my ability to help people.