With over 99% of civil legal cases settling before jury verdict, Trial Guides asked some of its authors to comment about how their book can be used not just in trial, but how to settle your case using their methods.
Lawyers thinking that Trial in Action isn’t for them if their cases settle is a common issue. When people say things like this, they are being too literal. They want the exact answer to the exact question, and they aren’t willing to do the work to see things in larger terms. They’re saying, “Solve my problem, give me exactly what I want on a platter and I might read your book.”
We rarely go to trial. But we use these methods constantly. It’s all about how you recognize other people, what they’re doing, and reversing roles with them. You need an idea of where they’re coming from and how you might work with them to get to what’s best for your case.
Our book is different. Even thought it’s called Trial in Action, it’s a method you can use to discover and edit your story so that it is the most persuasive for whomever the decision-maker is. It could be an insurance company adjustor, a lawyer, a mediator, an arbitrator, or a judge ruling on a motion. It could be a settlement negotiation where you are seeking the best settlement offer. In other cases, you may be seeking changes in policies and procedures in the settlement agreement. The tools in this book help you inhabit the skin of others in the story, so you get the best impact from your decision maker.
This method is a lot of work. It requires a lot more than the standard review, pleadings, and so on. It’s a whole new way of looking at cases. It’s not simply about trial. Trial is one possible manifestation of a case. There are many other mechanisms to resolve a case. You can use this tool in any venue—mediation, settlement negotiation, with judges, in front of a claims adjustor. Civil cases or criminal cases. Don’t give up heart. Go ahead and try these things. You’ll be amazed.
Another by-product of the Trial in Action methods—the ideas we teach in our book will improve relations with your clients. Clients are generally not happy—they want to be heard and validated. If you use these methods, clients will be happier. They want to be heard, and they will feel that you understood them and did the best you can.
We’ve had a lot of younger lawyers in our offices. They think their job is to practice law, but then they are amazed when the clients aren’t happy.
Part of what happens is that clients have unrealistic expectations. Clients think we’re magicians. We’re not—we know that. By reversing roles with our clients, really seeing the world as they see it, we can answer their questions better, and make sure they know we understand what they want.
A model case isn’t life. What the book does is gives you a more realistic approach to law than what you’re going to get in law school. It’s a humanistic approach. Real cases, and real people are messy and complicated. This book helps you deal with that.
People say to us, “I wish I’d known this twenty years ago. I’d be happier and my clients would be happier.” Clients can feel it when you are right there with them. Even if the outcome isn’t wonderful, you cared.
Some lawyers just want to know, “What do I do to win this case?” The book examines all other aspects of your life so you can perform better. Trial in Action isn’t just about this case, it’s about how you view and work with all your cases—so you can have a better life.