The following is an interview with one of America's greatest trial lawyers, Randi McGinn. She is a member of the Inner Circle of Advocates, an invitation-only group of the 100 best trial lawyers in America, and author of the Trial Guides book Changing Laws, Saving Lives.
Randi McGinn on Changing Laws, Saving Lives
Trial Guides: What made you want to write Changing Laws, Saving Lives?
Randi McGinn: I didn’t think there was a book out that gave you a feel for what it’s like to be in a case as a lawyer. And so, it was written for lawyers who are just starting out, lawyers who are experienced (because it has advice for them too), and people who think they might want to be lawyers. Reading it will give you a real feel for what it’s like to be inside the case as it develops and unfolds. How you deal with the problems that come up during the case, and how you come out the other side alive.
Trial Guides: What topics or practice areas does the book cover?
Randi McGinn: The books covers the soup to nuts of trial work. It starts at the very beginning about how you pick a case, and it goes through the case to the end. It tells the story of one case, how we picked that case and alternates chapters of advice with a real story. You get how to follow the case from case selection, how to pick a jury, and all the way through how to do closing argument. Any kind of trial skill you’d want to know about, it’s in the book in one of the chapters.
What Makes Changing Laws, Saving Lives Unique?
Trial Guides: How is this book unique? What makes it different from other books on trial law?
Randi McGinn: I had never read a book that wrapped the knowledge of how to try a case inside the story of one case. Lots of trial advice books talk about various cases and give examples from various cases, but I didn’t know of one that took one case and took you all the way through it and showed you all the different kinds of decisions that were made from beginning to the end and the challenges you had to deal with, and how you dealt with them as the trial was ongoing. I know for me it’s always easier to learn when there’s a story involved, so it’s a true life story with advice wrapped into it.
Who is this book for?
Trial Guides: Why did you pick this case for the book versus other cases you might have worked on?
Randi McGinn: This case was a David versus Goliath story of a minimum wage worker who had no power at all and had the worst possible thing happen to her that could happen to anybody. The story is a story about how having no resources and no power in society, the law lets you come to court and take on the Goliaths of this world who have much more money than you do. It’s the story of this family’s fight for justice for Elizabeth Garcia and it has a happy ending, sort of. You’ll just have to read it to find out.
Trial Guides: Who would benefit most from buying this book, such as new lawyers, experienced lawyers, particular practice areas, who would you recommend it for?
Randi McGinn: I think the book is for anybody who is interested in the law. For experienced lawyers, there are ideas in there for them. New lawyers, it gives you a feel for what it’s like being inside the courtroom. And people who are just thinking about law school or parents who have kids who are thinking about going into law school because it really gives you a feel for what it’s like. And after reading it, if you’re thinking about law school, you’ll know if you want to go ahead or not.
Randi McGinn on the Qualities of a Trial Lawyer
Trial Guides: What personal qualities make a successful trial lawyer?
Randi McGinn: The most important quality, I think, is intellectual curiosity. Because when you’re a trial lawyer, every day you come into the office you’re dealing with some new problem that you have to solve. One day you’ll be driving into a smelting facility in a giant cresthall to see what your client had to deal with, and in the next week you’ll be in a canning operation, trying to figure out how botulism got into cans. If you’re interested in life then being a trial lawyer is the best job in the world because you’re learning something new every single day.
Randi McGinn on the Frustrations of Practicing Personal Injury Law
Trial Guides: What do you find frustrating in personal injury trial law and how do you deal with it?
Randi McGinn: The length of time it takes to get justice for your client. It’s really hard to deal with: you file motions to expedite hearings, you ask for expedited trial settings, but it still moves at a glacial pace. The problem is not as much for us as it is for our clients. When the worst thing in the world has happened to them, leaving open the case and waiting for justice is like having an open wound until you finally get to court, and the jury renders a verdict. I wish there was more we could do about that but there’s really not a lot you can do.
Randi McGinn on Regrouping After Loss
Trial Guides: What do you do to regroup after an unsuccessful case?
Randi McGinn: First I climb into bed and pull the covers over my head and I stay there for about 24 hours. And then the next morning the sun comes up and the birds are singing, and I realize, okay, I can don my big-girl panties and go out there into the world and fight on. And so that’s how I regroup: hiding under the covers for 24 hours.
Advice for New Plaintiff Lawyers
Trial Guides: What advice would you give to new trial lawyers?
Randi McGinn: You picked a great profession. I think being a trial lawyer is the best job in the world. If you want to be successful at it, what you need to do is go out and learn your craft. Spend time, maybe buying Trial Guides books, but certainly going to seminars and learning how to be a trial lawyer. Someday a case or a client is going to walk in and they’ve had the worst thing in the world happen and they want you to be their champion and you have to ready and armed with the knowledge to help them.
Randi McGinn on Improving Safety Through Litigation
Trial Guides: What is the most rewarding outcome of your cases?
Randi McGinn: The fact that sometimes you can use the law to have a big corporation make a change to make the community safer. When that happens that’s probably more important to my clients than the money we may win at trial. The fact that they’ve made a change so this horrible thing won’t happen to anyone else.