The following is an interview with trial lawyer Randi McGinn, the first female President of the Inner Circle of Advocates, and author of Trial Guides' book Changing Laws, Saving Lives.
Randi McGinn Recommends Trial Guides Products
Randi: I want to encourage lawyers to read books. I feel like I’ve written my book maybe at the exact moment when people have stopped reading books. But there is so much of value particularly in the Trial Guides books: Twelve Heroes One Voice, Rick Friedman and Pat Malone’s Rules of the Road. Whenever you’re feeling depressed, feeling down, pull one of those books off the shelf and read them, or look at some of the videos of Moe Levine. It’s sort of a way to rejuvenate yourself to get away from all of the noise of your devices and your screens and just contemplate what we do and why we do it. And I want to thank Trial Guides for putting together a series of books that helps people do that, especially when you’re in the depths of depression after having lost a case. It’s very helpful to go back to the source, always.
Randi McGinn discusses How She Prepares for Settlement
Trial Guides: Nationally, more than 99% of all civil cases now settle. How have the decrease in numbers of cases going to trial affected your practice?
Randi McGinn: We’re still trying cases. The interesting thing is once you hit somebody you try less cases because now they’re scared of you. When I was a little pipsqueak lawyer just beginning and I’d say in my little pipsqueak voice, “Okay, I’m just gonna go to trial.” They would just laugh at me and say, “Okay, we’re going to take you to trial.” And so now they don’t make that mistake so much. When I say we’re going to go to trial it causes them some concern. But remarkably it’s great and it may have something to do with the fact that I’m a woman lawyer, but some of our cases still go to trial. And I think part of it is they think we can’t do what they’ve heard we can do. That’s always a joy in the courtroom, when you get to have somebody let you try a case that they should have settled. In fact, the words I love to hear the most is, “They’re not going to offer anything to settle your case,” because that’s where I have the most fun is in the courtroom.
Trial Guides: Are there any strategies or tactics that you’ve found especially helpful in maximizing your settlements results?
Randi McGinn: Yes, you prepare every case as if it’s going to trial. I mean that’s it. Because they know you’ve got all your ducks lined up in the first six months of your case. You’ve found all the things you need so you don’t have to go scrambling around looking for them right before trial. And everything is preserved. And we’ve found the more you get every case ready as if it’s going to go to trial, the more the case is settled.
Trial Guides: Do you have any stories to share about your experiences or surprises in negotiating a settlement?
Randi McGinn: They are often surprised in dealing with us because my view of settlement is you make a reasonable offer early in the case to settle the case. If they don’t take that opportunity, then your settlement numbers go up rather than down. And that always surprises the other side as opposed to surprising us but that’s…that’s how we feel about a case. Once we do the work to find the information that makes the case better, we’re going to raise the amount that we settled the case for rather than lower it.
Randi McGinn discusses the Role and Importance of Women in Trial Law
Trial Guides: Why do we need more women trial lawyers?
Randi McGinn: Women have an advantage in the courtroom. Just by their appearance they don’t look like what people think a lawyer is and most people don’t like lawyers. And when you look different than what their preconceived notion is, you come to the courtroom with more credibility, they believe you more, and they give you more leeway. I’ve had such wonderful experiences in the courtroom and feel like as a woman you become the person they listen to because you aren’t the lawyer in the court, you’re the person they can trust and can believe.
Trial Guides: What obstacles have you faced as a female trial lawyer and how have those experiences made you a better lawyer?
Randi McGinn: I’ve been accused of being oblivious to discrimination and I’m not oblivious to it, I know that it goes on. But my feeling is once you get to the courtroom as a woman lawyer that’s the great equalizer. In the courtroom, no matter how bad a male on the other side has been to you, in front of the jury they can’t behave that way. If they do, the jury will punish them. And I always feel like once I get to the courtroom it’s an equal playing field, not only equal but perhaps I have an advantage in the courtroom. So when someone is doing discriminatory things or being abusive to me, I just want to take them to court and kick their ass.
Randi McGinn on Becoming a Trial Lawyer
Being a journalist is about the best training you can get to being a trial lawyer because it teaches you all the things that you need to be a trial lawyer. It teaches you to investigate, take a huge group of facts and condense it down to create a story, and then to tell a compelling story. And so, journalism for me was a great entrée into what I think is storytelling on steroids which is trial work. And trial work is even more fun than being a journalist because you get to do everything. You get to not only write the story, do the investigation, but you get to produce the story, direct the story and act in the story as well, so it’s the best possible job in the whole world.
Randi McGinn on Becoming the First Woman President of the Inner Circle of Advocates
Trial Guides: What does it mean to be a member of the Inner Circle of Advocates and its first female president?
Randi McGinn: Wow, it’s the premiere plaintiffs group in the country, and for me I’ve not only made wonderful friends, but I feel like whenever I’m in trial I feel like I have 100 the best lawyers across the country in my back pocket, so that if anything happens I get on the listserv and send out a cry for help and 100 people get back to me with some of the best suggestions you’ve ever heard.
As far as being president, you know it’s like, they pick their president like the pope. If you ever say you want to be the president, you can’t be it. They just come and tell you that you’ve become the president, so it was really a high honor that these people I admire think that I could do that job, so that was terrific.
Trial Guides Author Randi McGinn on Preparation for Trial
Trial Guides: In your new book Changing Laws, Saving Lives, you write that lawyers should spend 100 hours of time preparing for every hour they spend in the courtroom. Did this limit the number of cases a firm, such as yourself, can effectively handle?
Randi McGinn: Nobody should take more cases than they can do. And in fact, because we know how time intensive a case is going to be, that does limit the number of cases we can do. Our solution is to hire more people to help us work on the cases rather than turn down a good case.
Randi McGinn on Opening Statements
Opening statement is the most important part of a trial. All the studies show that about 75% of the people decide the case after the opening statement and if you can put together a killer opening statement, there’s no way the other side can recover after that. And so, that’s why I wrote that particular chapter on that particular subject.
The opening statement sets the entire story for the case and he or she who tells the best story wins the case. So, if you can create a good solid story that the jury goes with you on in opening statement, the trial is over. And so, if you have no time to do anything else, opening statement is the thing you devote most of your time to.