I’ve been practicing law for 41 years. I’ve enjoyed a measure of success during that time
period. I’ve also suffered some failures. I’ve tried to learn from those failures. One way I’ve
done this is to immerse myself in reading.
About five (5) years ago, I got turned on to a book entitled Damages 3. It’s a book
written by David Ball. I hadn’t read a book in a while, so I purchased the book and read it
thoroughly. Reading Ball’s book turned me back on to reading. From Damages 3, I read a book
called The Reptile. This lead to other books – many of which are published by Trial Guides. I’ve
now read approximately 30-40 books in the past 5 years – about 6-8 books per year. It’s been a
pure joy and I’m going to continue to read – for pleasure and for self-improvement.
Reading what I’ve read over the past five years has helped me appreciate why I won some
of the cases I’ve tried. Unfortunately, it has also helped me appreciate why I lost some of the
cases I’ve lost. Let me give you an example.
After reading The Reptile, I came to understand that people don’t like a lack of clarity.
With that knowledge in hand, I was representing a man charged with hiring another man to kill a
game warden’s goats. The man who testified that he was hired to kill the goats, testified that on
the night when he slit the throats of the two goats, he had consumed 6 percocets and a dozen or
so beers. This is my rough memory of his testimony.
The highlight of the trial was when my client took the stand. The Attorney General’s
Office was prosecuting the case and they asked my client the following question: “You don’t like
the game warden much do you?” My client heard the question and turned to the jury. He then
said: “No, I don’t like the game warden much. I think he is an asshole.”
What a contrast – my client was very clear and the fellow who said he was hired to kill the
game warden’s goats wasn’t clear at all. Hearing what I heard, I immediately thought of the
lessons in The Reptile.
In the closing argument, I urged the jury not to go where it wasn’t clear. I told them that
when you go where it’s dark – it’s dangerous. Go toward clarity. I urged them to find for my
client if for no other reason than he was clear. He could have waffled and said he thought the
game warden was a helluva nice guy. He didn’t. He told the jury how he honestly felt and he
didn’t mince his words when he did. I told the jury that you can trust that person. You can’t
trust the person who takes 6 percocet, drinks 12 beers to wash it down and then tries to tell you
I’ve enjoyed all the reading, but I’ve had to adjust to it in a fashion. You read these books
and there are wonderful suggestions/ideas within the four corners of the book. Nevertheless –
I’ve convinced myself that I need to trust myself to make good judgements. I need to trust
myself to make good decisions along the way. I’ve learned that I can’t necessarily mimic the
great lawyers who are writing these books. Instead, I’ve got to take what I can from what I’ve
read and make it part of who I already am. I’m trying to trust myself more, not less, than prior to
my having read the books.