Reviewed by Hans Poppe
I am not a slow reader—quite the opposite. So why did it take me two months to finish Richard Friedman’s new book, The Way of the Trial Lawyer–Beyond Technique? It took me two months because I was only given two months to complete this review—otherwise I would have savored it for four months!
I originally thought I’d sit down and blast through the 273 pages in a long afternoon, perhaps two afternoons. But I quickly realized this is not that kind of book. The Way of the Trial Lawyer is unlike anything else you have ever read about the practice of law. It’s content needs to be read, re-read, and allowed to sink in slowly. This book requires active thought. I could only digest one or two chapters a day. This book will take you places you probably haven’t been before. Places you don’t think about. But places that must be explored if you are to be your best self in the practice of law.
Rick quickly introduces us to the concept of “Teiwaz” (pronounced Tee-waz), the name given to the following symbol on a Rune stone.
Teiwaz is the word Rick uses throughout the book to describe the ideal trial lawyer. It is clear a Teiwaz is a lawyer seeking enlightenment by inner self exploration and outer observation.
The Way of the Trial Lawyer is NOT a book about the technical aspects of being a trial lawyer. It is a journey inward, a moral journey. Who are you as a trial lawyer? Why are you a trial lawyer? What are your moral truths and from what source do you derive them? Do you have moral clarity? If not, how can you obtain it? How do you share your moral truth with opposing counsel? With the court? With the jury? What are your fears? What are your inadequacies? What are your insecurities? What is your relationship with yourself? Is it positive? Is it negative? Is it in service of your client?
Here is an excerpt succinctly illustrating the thrust of the book:
“Teiwaz lawyers do not accept the corporate one-dimensional version of themselves. They are not afraid to look inward and acknowledge a mix of emotions and motivations. They are willing to explore and embrace their own complexity. Having done that hard work, they cannot be cowed or shamed by their opponents, inside or outside of the courtroom.”
Rick explains how the adoption of the “zealous-technician” view of advocacy has taken away one of our most powerful weapons—our moral authority. And he explains what we must do to get it back, sharpen it, and wield it for the benefit of our client. This work is not easy. It requires us to look at ourselves in ways we normally avoid, the darker alleys of our true self. The Teiwaz lawyer must learn to entertain uncomfortable thoughts and shine a spotlight on our ethos. The Teiwaz lawyer is prepared to enter the dark alley, as many times as necessary. Teiwaz lawyers do not wait for life to thrust growth upon them, they create intentional opportunities to grow as a human and as a lawyer. The Teiwaz recognizes they will one day be dead, and their accomplishments forgotten. Embracing this reality, a Teiwaz lawyer has no fear of judge, jury, or opponent. They have clarity of perspective.
The Teiwaz lawyer is constantly on the search for the “something more” in the practice of trial law. Something more than verdicts, attention, or money. The Teiwaz embraces the moral and psychological journey to truth. And through this process, their ethos is created.
I could go on and on about the inward journey this book invites you to take, however, the introduction to Chapter 8 “Fate & Destiny” sums it up better than I can:
There’s an African proverb: “When death finds you, may it find you alive.” Alive means living your own damn life, not the life that your parents wanted, or the life some cultural group or political party wanted, but the life that your own soul wants to live. — Michael Meade
“The life that your own soul wants to live.” Wow. So, are you ready? Will you go on this inner journey and discover who you are and who you will be as a trial lawyer? Will you seek to be Teiwaz? I encourage you to do so. It will not be easy, but it is truly the way of the trial lawyer.