Factors Affecting Trial Strategy: The Client
A lawyer’s plan of attack for a case that goes to trial utilizes certain trial tactics to implement an overall trial strategy. Because every case is different, the trial strategy of each case will be different as well. Just the same, specific universal principles may be applied in every case to formulate the best trial strategy for the case at hand. One factor that affects trial strategy in every case is the client.
In personal injury cases, plaintiff’s attorneys are free to choose their clients while defense attorneys, who are retained by insurance companies, do not possess this same luxury. A defense counsel must defend anyone the plaintiff sues, otherwise there is the risk of the client-insurer choosing another attorney to represent their insureds. Plaintiff’s attorneys should take advantage of the opportunity to be selective in those clients they choose to represent.
The most important factors when going to trial are the client’s trustworthiness, credibility, and believability. It is important to project the image of the client as compatible with the jury’s values, consciousness, and overall preferences.
Jurors identify with and relate to stable, respectable, believable, ordinary people since jurors tend to have a similar self-perception. Jurors are typically more inclined to be sympathetic and willing to help someone who they perceive to be like them as someone with whom they can personally identify.
There are simple ways to portray a client as such. If the client’s contact with law enforcement and the arresting officer was cooperative and cordial, inform the jury of this fact as early as possible in the trial. After all, cooperative people are likable.
An important facet of trial strategy is making the client the focus of the trial and the case itself. Portraying the client as a victim in the case from beginning to end of the trial is useful and in no way an exaggeration. Victims, clients, and human beings all have their imperfections and vulnerabilities. In fairness, they all have redeeming values and positive attributes as well. These facts should be planted as seeds early in the trial, nurtured, developed, and emphasized throughout the trial, even starting with voir dire.
The trial strategy of a case is like a highway where different tactics merge and move together toward a successful destination. Sometimes there may be a detour and an alternative route may be necessary to proceed to the destination. Detailing a trial strategy is like drawing a road map that allows attorneys to have a perspective of the entire journey from beginning to end.
Lawyers must not preoccupy themselves with their trial tactics to the extent that the overall trial strategy is set aside because of one unexpected fork in the road. The cross-examination of a single witness that went poorly will usually not decide a case. They must remember the big picture and those things that must be accomplished throughout the life cycle of a case to ensure a successful verdict. Thus, maintaining a trial strategy is as important as formulating one.
The California Desert Trial Academy College of Law was founded with the philosophy of not only teaching students the substantive law, but on training, educating, and developing students to be exceptional attorney-advocates. The development of trial advocacy tools is essential to success in any judicial or administrative setting. Call us today at (760) 342-0900 or find out more online here.