You Deserve… NOTHING!

Did you hear Tony Romo’s press conference earlier this week? It was one of the classiest and most gracious speeches I’ve heard in a long time.

In case you don’t know what I’m talking about, Romo was the 36-year old starting quarterback of the Dallas Cowboys (arguably the most coveted position in football).

Earlier this year he was injured, and forced to sit on the sidelines until he healed.

While he was out, the second-string quarterback (a 4th round rookie draft pick) stepped in to keep the team going.

There’s an unwritten rule in sports that you don’t lose your job to injury, so everyone expected that Romo would be back at the starting QB position as soon as he was healthy.

But nobody predicted what the 4th-string rookie would do.

That rookie, Dak Prescott, took the helm of the Cowboys, leading them to an impressive 8-0 record.

A perfect record.

It doesn’t get any better than that, does it?

So what should happen next?

Sure, you shouldn’t lose your job because you got injured, but what happens when your replacement does an amazing job?

If you were an objective manager deciding what would be best for the team, your decision would be simple and easy to make: Go with the rookie and the perfect record.

But what if you had skin in the game?

Would it be an easy decision, or would it be tortuous?

Worse yet, what if it was your job on the line?

Would you be willing (or able?) to endorse the younger, better quarterback, knowing that it was the best decision for your team, even if it meant that you would lose that coveted job?

Objectively, it might be an easy decision, but from a personal perspective, it’s an impossibly difficult thing to do.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t think I’d be magnanimous enough to step aside, even if it was in the best interest of my team.

But Tony Romo was selfless.

He pledged his support to the rookie QB, because he felt it was in the best interest of his team.

In his speech (which you must watch if you want a class on building character – check it out here), he said:

It’s in this moment you find out who you really are, and what you’re really about. You see football is a meritocracy. You aren’t handed anything. You earn everything, every single day, over and over again you have to prove it. That’s the way that the NFL, football works. 

Here’s the important trial lawyer lesson that I want you to take away from his speech. That’s the way life works, too.

If you want to be a great trial lawyer, you have to earn it.

Every. Single. Day.

What have you done to earn it?

Did you win the biggest verdict ever seen in your courthouse?

Did you win your last 10 cases in a row?

Did you win every motion you argued this month?

Congratulations! I’m really proud of you! Seriously, those are great accomplishments, and I’m really, really proud of you.

Those victories are… Amazing!

Those victories are…Fantastic!

Those victories are… Last week’s news!

Here’s The BAD News…

You can’t survive on your past victories.

Your next client doesn’t care what you did for your last client. They don’t care what you did for your last 100 clients.

The client standing beside you in court this morning doesn’t care that you won your last 100 trials in a row, he only cares about his case, and what you can do for him now.

He expects you to be the best lawyer in the courthouse today, and expects you to do a great job for him now.

Those victories have already been cashed and spent, so if you want to maintain your status as a top-level attorney, you have to prove it all over again every time you step into the courtroom.

But Here’s the GREAT News…

It also doesn’t matter if you’ve lost your last 100 trials in a row.

It doesn’t matter if you’ve screwed up, it doesn’t matter if you’ve been lazy, and it doesn’t matter if you’ve been less than you know you should be.

Your past doesn’t equal your future.

That means you start your next trial with a clean slate.

This trial is a brand-new opportunity for you to excel.

These jurors have no idea what your past looks like. They have no idea whether you’ve won every case you’ve ever tried, whether you’ve lost every case you’ve ever tried, or if you’ve never even tried a case before.

All they’ll know is what you deliver once you walk through the courtroom doors.

Earn your spot on the team by giving them what they deserve.

Be completely prepared, and deliver the strongest, most persuasive arguments you can.

You want to be the starting quarterback?

You want to be the star of the show?

You want to be the trial lawyer that other lawyers fear, that judges trust, and that clients scramble to hire?

I don’t know where you are right now, and I don’t care what your past looks like. All I know is that, if you truly, truly want to be, you CAN be that lawyer.

Every week, you’ll have to earn it, but if you work hard enough, you can do it. I promise.

Just remember that every morning wipes out yesterday’s victories, so you need to start fresh and honestly answer the question: "Do I deserve the starting position?"

Only you can answer that question. For your client’s sake, I hope the answer is always "Yes."

The Power of Intolerance

Music is powerful.

If I’m running and feeling tired, all I need to do is put on Eye of the Tiger (free download if you have Amazon Prime Music) and I can get a little extra burst of energy to run faster and further than I thought I could. (One of my absolute all-time workout favorites is Sandstorm by Darude, but unfortunately that one’s not a freebie).

Why can I run faster and farther when I have a great song pumping in my ears?

It’s not voodoo or witchcraft. I already had the energy to do it, it’s just that the music triggers an emotional reaction and pushes me a little further.

Music is powerful, and if we can tap into even a little bit of its emotional power in the courtroom, it’s worth doing.

The important part is to know what music is going to resonate with your jurors. Not everybody likes the same music, and it’s not always easy to gauge which music moves people best.

Take me for example.

I’ve got SiriusXM in the car, so whenever I’m not listening to practice-specific CLE materials (which is almost all the time… there’s SO MUCH good stuff out there!) I’m flipping between the electronic/dance/chill stations and the “music by decades” stations, usually the “80’s on 8” channel.

The electronic/dance/chill stations might surprise you. After all, I’ve got salt and pepper hair (I keep denying that the grey hairs are there, but they are), so it might seem unusual that I’d be listening to music with a 160-180bpm pulse.

But the 80’s station shouldn’t be a surprise at all, and I’ll tell you why in a second.

First, it’s because the “80’s on 8” station plays only songs from 1980-1989, and there is some great stuff to be found there:

· “Sledgehammer” by Peter Gabriel
· “Hungry Like the Wolf” by Duran Duran
· “She Blinded Me With Science” by Thomas Dolby
(All of the links in this article are to free download links if you have the Amazon Prime music app)

But the real reason why I keep gravitating back to the 1980’s music is actually based in science and psychology.

In case you were looking for a new and interesting way to connect with your jurors, you can glean a little extra knowledge about juror psychology by checking out this Huffington Post article, “Here’s How Your Taste In Music Evolves As You Age, According To Science.”

In the article, they say that for most people, our interest in popular music peaks around age 33. More importantly, “It seems that taste crystalizes around the music one is exposed to from around 16-24 years of age,” Dr. Adrian North, who heads the School of Psychology at Curtain University in Australia.

That’s why I like the 80’s music, and that’s why you like whatever generation of music you grew up with.

But what does that mean for you in the courtroom?

It means that if you know your jurors’ ages, you can throw in little song snippets to make a subtle emotional connection with them.

It’s not going to win the case or make the juror fall in love with you, but anytime you get a chance to make another emotional connection with a juror, you should grab it, and music is one of the easiest ways to spark an emotional reaction.

How old are your jurors?

When did their taste in music probably chrystalize?

What were the most popular songs from that time frame that they would know by heart and instantly recognize?

Knowing these types of things are basics for understanding your jury and being able to conduct a quick “cold read” of each juror. (By the way, if you’re looking for a great tutorial on doing quick cold readings like this, there are a few fun references worth checking out. The first is Steve Martin’s performance in Leap of Faith, where he plays a con-man traveling faith healer. It’s not exactly a tutorial, but it’s worth watching. The second is The Full Facts Book Of Cold Reading by Ian Rowland, which will lay out all of the routines you need to become a psychic).

For example, I told you that my favorite genre is 80’s music. If your closing centers on a premature decision made by a party (before they had all the facts) and you’re trying to convince me that someone should have held back for a second before “rushing to judgment,” you could weave in the phrase, “Relax… Don’t do it, when you want to go it.” (Relax by Frankie Goes to Hollywood) and I’d make the connection.

Prosecuting a stalking case? An understated, “Every breath you take, every move you make… I’ll be watching you” would perk up my ears. (Every Breath You Take by the Police).

(I guess you could also use “Somebody’s Watching Me” by Rockwell).

Anyway, you get the point… You can weave in little references gauged to your jurors’ musical tastes and enjoy a small emotional connection. You could do the same thing with movie references or pop-culture references, too.

Like I said, it won’t win the day, but it may be the little extra bit that you need to make an emotional connection with a juror or to re-grab their attention so they start listening to you again.

To wrap it up, I want to share with you one of the important lessons that you will ever learn in this newsletter.

Strangely enough, I learned it from this guy:

That guy is Ivan Doroschuk, and he was the lead singer of Men Without Hats. They achieved fame and fortune in 1983 when they hit the charts with one of my favorite songs, “The Safety Dance.”

Here’s the important lesson that they shared:

“We can dance if we want to, we can leave your friends behind…
’cause your friends don’t dance, and if they don’t dance,
Well, they’re no friends of mine.”

I absolutely love that lyric… “cause your friends don’t dance and if they don’t dance, well they’re no friends of mine.”

The power of the lyric is that it tells us the importance of being INTOLERANT.

The word “intolerance” usually has a negative connotation to it. If you refuse to put someone on your jury because of their sex or their race or their sexual orientation, you’re a bigot, and you deserve to lose every case you try.

That’s not the type of intolerance that I’m talking about.

The intolerance that I’m talking about is being completely intolerant of people and things that cripple your productivity, ruin your chances of winning a case, or deprive you of the lifestyle you desire.

You must be intolerant of those things.

If a client demands all of your free time, calls you at odd hours and makes unreasonable demands, you can’t accept it. You must be intolerant. You need to either fire the client or change the client’s behavior. If you don’t, not only will you lose your sanity, but you’ll end up doing a sub-standard job for your other clients, too.

(My dad has a great rule: “Never have a client that you can’t afford to fire.” Never let one client become the sole or majority source of your income, or else you’ll be held slave to their whims. More importantly, if they decide to take their business someplace else or if they fall apart, you’re dead.)

If a potential juror hijacks the entire conversation and prevents you from conducting an effective voir dire, you can’t accept that, either. You must be intolerant, and take back control of the conversation. If you don’t, you’ll lose the panel and you’ll lose the case.

You should be intolerant of injustice, too. That’s why we do what we do for a living. We fight injustice. We level the playing field. If we tolerate injustice for even an instant, it creeps into our lives and becomes a permanent part of the fabric of society. We must be constantly vigilant to protect our clients and ourselves from injustice.

Intolerance is not a bad thing. There are things which you MUST NOT ACCEPT.

Poor performance, tardiness, cheating…. Whatever hurts you and your firm, it cannot be tolerated. Don’t give an inch on the principles that truly matter to you. Let the world know what you will and will not accept, because surprisingly, it will often give you exactly what you ask for.

Performing Under Pressure

The Secrets to Performing Under Pressure

Parallel parking.

If you work in a major city, it’s something that you probably do every day.

For example, here’s a picture of where I parked my car outside the courthouse just the other day:

Nothing special about it, right?

Sure, the car is a little longer than the average sedan, but there’s still plenty of distance between my car and the cars in front and behind.

There’s absolutely no reason for me to be nervous about parking the car in that space, right?

And usually, I’d agree with you.

Normally, I would park the car in a spot that size without even thinking twice.

But this time, I hesitated, and almost had second thoughts about parking in that spot.

Maybe it will sense once you see the full view of where I was parking:

That’s right… The spot where I was going to park was in-between two police cars.

Even though it was a normal parking job, it didn’t feel normal, because of the extra pressure weighing on the situation. Of all the different cars in the world that you don’t want to accidentally bump into, “police car” ranks near the top of the list.

(Also on the list: Rolls Royce, Ferrari, and anything owned by a Mob Boss)

Nothing was different about the actual facts… The traffic, the size of the parking spot, the length of the car, etc… All of those facts were exactly the same.

It was just the perception of everything that was magnified because of the types of cars involved. Suddenly, it felt like this was going to be much more difficult that it actually was.

The same is true for your trials.

Pre-trial preparation, jury selection, opening statements… The same techniques apply in every type of case.

But when you’re involved with a high-stakes trial, a high-publicity trial, or dealing with a legendary opponent, it feels like the case is different.

Just remember: It’s not.

Trust your training, and trust your skills.

The same winning advocacy techniques that you’ve successfully relied upon in other cases work here, too. Be confident. You can pull this off. Just take a deep breath and remind yourself, “This is a trial… I know how this works. I’ve been here before. I’ve won cases before. And I can win this one, too.”

The pressure makes the case feel different, but don’t let it negatively affect your composure or case presentation.

If you can’t perform under pressure, you shouldn’t be in this line of work. Every client, regardless of whether they have the lowliest dog-bite case or a ground-breaking human rights issue, deserves your professionalism and highest effort.

When pressure rears its ugly head, keep calm, maintain your composure, and keep your focus. You can do this. You’ll soon realize that this case isn’t really any different from the other cases you’ve tried, and you’ll put yourself in the best position to successfully bring home the winning verdict.