Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Trial Tips--Constructing A Solid Final Argument

Final argument is what every trial attorney lives for. It's the equivalent of being on the mound with a 3-2 count in the 9th inning, or launching the final shot at the buzzer. It's the weaving together of a patchwork of evidence that hopefully makes sense to the jury at the apex of the summit of the trial.

We all look for the necessary binding or fastening materials to tie everything together. A quote, a parable, a metaphor or analogy--these are the binders we use. These are our stock in trade, and every good attorney scavenges for the right one to bring home to the jury. I collect two things. One is fishing lures and equipment, since I am a certified fishaholic. The other thing I collect is quotes, phrases, and other words of wisdom. I have a weathered notebook that I've kept in my desk for years. Every time I read a quote or phrase or story that is appealing, I copy it into my trusty journal for use in a legal brief or at trial.

A great source of inspiration for me is music lyrics. In my mind, there is no greater lyricist than Neil Young. For example, in a personal injury case involving injury to or loss of a child, "I Am A Child" offers this insightful thought:

I am a child.
I last awhile.
You can't conceive of the pleasure in my smile.

Message: you're only a child for so long. No child should have to suffer the loss of innocence or have it broken or shortened due to the carelessness of others.

I've also had cases where my clients were younger and not earning a ton of money at the time they were injured. Perhaps they were just young and immature and just getting by or not realizing their full potential. In those cases, the defense often argues, sometimes very subtly, that the serious injury to that person was no big deal since they weren't exactly setting the world on fire when they were injured. This argument has always been offensive to me, since so many of us are late bloomers, and it doesn't mean we won't someday "figure it out" and reach our potential. Neil's "Comes A Time" beautifully speaks to this issue:

Come's a time, when you're drifting.
Come's a time when you settle down.
Come's a life, feelings lifting.
Pick that baby right up off the ground.
This old world keeps spinning round.
It's a wonder tall trees ain't layin down.
There comes a time.

I think those lyrics put the idea of growing up and realizing potential into proper perspective. So here's a small tribute to my man Neil and a tip of my cap as an inspiration to me and to helping my clients. "Long may you run," Neil (another great song by him), and Happy Birthday (born Nov 12, 1945). Long may we all run as we figure out this thing called life.

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