The following is an interview conducted with AAJ President Lisa Blue, co-author of the Trial Guides "Little Blue Books" Preparing for Voir Dire and Conducting Voir Dire.
Trial Guides: What made you want to write the Little Blue Book series on Voir Dire?
Lisa Blue: Well as a trial lawyer and a psychologist, my passion is teaching, especially younger lawyers, and hopefully making a significant change in how they practice law, how they think about things.
Trial Guides: What topic does each book cover?
Lisa Blue: Well, one is Preparing for Voir Dire and the other is how to actually do the voir dire with a jury.
Trial Guides: What parts did you and co-author Robert Hirschhorn each contribute to the books?
Lisa Blue: Well, the way that we wrote the book is we sat down together, we had a court reporter, we created an outline, and we just talked. And then once the transcript was done we tightened it up, we edited it, so that it would be more in book form.
Trial Guides: How is this book series different from other books on the same topic?
Lisa Blue: The book is written very simply. They’re written for lawyers no matter if they’re first year or more than 25 years in practice. And hopefully the book is written in a simple, practical, real-life situations people can use in everyday practice of law and create a trial strategy.
Trial Guides: Who is this book written for or who would benefit the most from buying it, such as new lawyers, experienced lawyers, specific practice areas
Lisa Blue: I think it’s written for any lawyer who wants to kick up a notch their trial skills, whether you’re a beginning lawyer or you’ve been in practice for more than twenty years. It’s all about thinking out of the box, trying new things, implementing techniques that other lawyers, other very smart creative lawyers have put into play.
Trial Guides: How could this book be used in law schools to help build their practical curriculum?
Lisa Blue: I think it’d be great for law schools to start out thinking outside the box. With our new generation, our internet, with social media, how can they use everything that’s available to them as young lawyers to make trials interesting use technology and get the results they want.
Trial Guides: What tough problems does this book help the reader solve?
Lisa Blue: Well, I hope all of the little blue books help lawyers that feel like they’re stuck. For example, if they have a very difficult problem in a trial, for example if their plaintiff has a prior conviction or the plaintiff has a prior car wreck or back problem, the little blue books help the lawyer think out of the box so they can fix these problems and get a successful result with a good verdict.
What Makes a Trial Lawyer
Trial Guides: How did you end up in a career practicing trial law?
Lisa Blue: I started out as a Ph.D. psychologist and I fell in love with trial lawyers who were my patients, meaning I fell in love with what they do for society. And so one day a patient of mine asked me if I wanted to help him pick a jury and I walked into the courtroom and knew right then that I wanted to be a trial lawyer. And I wanted to use my psychology background to see how the two disciplines could be used together.
Trial Guides: What personal qualities make a successful trial lawyer?
Lisa Blue: This is an area I’m very interested in. I think compassion and kindness toward others really make a difference because the jury can see the lawyer really cares about the client. Preparedness, the jury appreciates that you aren’t wasting their time. And just total enthusiasm for the case because the jurors can see so many things that are nonverbal in the courtroom that will help the lawyer tremendously win their case.
Lisa Blue on Trial Law
Trial Guides: How do you think your psychology background has benefitted you as a trial lawyer?
Lisa Blue: I think trial law presenting the case to the jury is pure psychology. I love going to lectures and hear so many good lawyers talk about reframing and psychodrama and sequencing because the most important tip I can give a trial lawyer is always remember people judge a case based on their belief system, not so much the evidence but through the filter through they see the evidence. So, I think psychology plays at least 90% in helping the lawyer present a successful case to the jury.
Trial Guides: To what do you attribute your success to winning big verdicts and settlements?
Lisa Blue: Well, I hope I come across as humble in my answer because I think a lot of it is luck and who ends up on your jury panel. But I’ve always believed that you don’t need to be the smartest lawyers in the courtroom, you don’t need to be the most clever, but you do need to be the most authentic. So, I really attribute my success to presenting the picture that I really care about the client and even when I make a mistake or mess up it’s just that I’m human.
Trial Guides: What do you find the most rewarding in trial law?
Lisa Blue: The clients. Helping people. And of course, my fellow trial lawyers. I absolutely love trial lawyers and that was the most rewarding thing about being president of the American Association of Justice is I got to interact with trial lawyers every single day.
Trial Guides: What do you find most frustrating in trial law and how do you deal with it?
Lisa Blue: What I find most frustrating is how the tort reformers have turned trial lawyers into villains. And they’ve painted us as greedy and individuals whose motives are not pure. It’s very frustrating because when you first face a jury panel, you know these are biases we have to deal with. So that’s been a very frustrating part of representing my profession.
Trial Guides: How do you decide you need help on a case and how do you choose a lawyer to partner with?
Lisa Blue: You know so much is instinct in life. I always believe I need help. I’ve never tried a case without a trial consultant, mainly Robert Hirschhorn my co-author who I love and adore and trust so much. But I always work with lawyers that I truly love and vacation with and talk to everyday. And the reason that’s important is because a jury can see when lawyers are partnering on a case, they can just tell they really care about each other. And I think in the end that really helps the result.
Trial Guides: If a lesser experienced lawyer comes to you and wants to partner with you what sort of qualities are you looking for in the lawyer or in the case?
Lisa Blue: Well, I’m always open to everything. I’m looking for a case I believe in. I’m looking for a case that I feel like I can make a difference. As far as qualities in a lawyer, whether they’re young or old or new, I’m looking for lawyers who really love to learn and lawyers that are passionate about the practice of law.
Trial Guides: How did you deal with the stress of the contingency-based practice when you were first starting out?
Lisa Blue: Well, I think that’s what I love about being a trial lawyers and I love about trial lawyers. They love, they accept, they understand risk. If you don’t take a risk and you don’t put your money and your heart and your passion into your practice, you may not succeed. But as a psychologist, the best advice I can give lawyers is to take up a practice in meditation and mindfulness. Even as a beginner I promise you it will help you deal with stress.
Trial Guides: Do you have any advice on growing a law firm?
Lisa Blue: My advice on growing a law firm is not to grow too fast and not to grow too big. I know it’s just instinct that you want to increase the number of lawyers if you have the work, but you really need to be thoughtful about overhead and handling your overhead and making sure it doesn’t get out of control.
Advice for Lawyers
Trial Guides: How do you regroup after an unsuccessful case?
Lisa Blue: That’s a great question. Because I practice mindfulness, I use meditation to calm me down and push the restart button, that’s been a huge help in my life. But also, as a psychologist, I think connecting with friends, taking care of yourself, going on a vacation. Figuring out what makes you happy in life. What are your hobbies? Who do you love to be with? And using that to handle your disappointment and your sadness to get back on track.
Trial Guides: What advice would you give to new trial lawyers?
Lisa Blue: Don’t lose your passion. Don’t lose your enthusiasm. Don’t ever get so down that you feel like you can’t get back up and really just believe in what you’re doing. Because I love to read books on leadership and how successful people really succeed and become a huge success in their practice. And it’s so much to do with your attitude and your optimism and how you relate to other people and your emotional intelligence. Not so much your IQ.
Trial Guides Products and Process as an Author
Trial Guides: Which Trial Guides products do you use and recommend?
Lisa Blue: All of them. The reason I love Trial Guides is because there is not one book that is boring, they all have this wonderful theme, there’s just a tiny bit of almost a Buddhist quality and I don’t say that in a religious way. It makes you think it’s so much about your personality, about you as a person, about the clients, about how you want to live your life and I love the whole series because they just don’t get trapped in some intellectual aspect that you want to tune out.
Trial Guides: How did you choose Trial Guides as a publisher for your work?
Lisa Blue: Because I love the philosophy. Their goal, their motive is to help lawyers learn, to help lawyers do a better job for their client, and they really understand that the practice of law is all about you and doing a good job and learning and kicking up your game and thinking out of the box. And what I love about the series is each one of those books has their own twist of creativity.
Trial Guides: Would you recommend Trial Guides as a publisher to other authors?
Lisa Blue: Absolutely.
Trial Guides: Is there anything else you’d like to say before we complete the interview?
Lisa Blue: I think what I would tell people that are considering buying these books that Trial Guides has published is that the authors that have written these books are truly the finest trial lawyers in their profession. These are the trial lawyers I go to, to learn from. And what I am so proud of, I actually buy and read every one of these books because they teach me so many things and to think out of the box. And besides that the authors of these books are some of the best human beings I have ever met and I am just so blessed to know them.