May 24, 2021
North Carolina Association of Defense Attorneys' The Resource
When President Smith asked several folks to write a column about what it means to be a trial lawyer, I thought why do any of us need to do this? After all, no one has ever done a better job of summing up this topic than Sammy Thompson in his valedictory address at Hilton Head a couple of years ago. It has never been any fun to follow Sammy. And the times I have had to do so, I have repeated the old comment attributed to John Warner, talking about his wedding night with the oft-married Elizabeth Taylor: “I know what I am supposed to do, I just don’t know how to make it seem new and interesting.”
To me the real core of being a trial lawyer is persuading people. Everything that we do is about convincing somebody – judges, jurors, clients, opponents — to do what we want them to do. One of my great mentors, Hank Hankins, said that trial work was bending others to your will, and that’s accurate. We package arguments, present precedents, position facts, and use all of our powers to persuade others and to convince them to adopt our positions. Any skill I have in achieving that end has been shaped by the lawyers I have been blessed to interact with over my career. Those lawyers fall into a number of categories that I believe should resonate with all practicing attorneys.
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