The Daily

‘Kindness’ Isn’t a Priority in Trial Lawyering and It Should Be

When I was coming up as a trial lawyer, I stayed hyper-focused on maintaining a variety of skills during discovery to get at the truth. My Dad used to say, “You need more than one arrow in your quiver.” More often than not, whether in depositions or hearings, combat was the rule of the day. But different people (witnesses, opposing counsel, judges), respond differently to different approaches. Reading the room is a critical part of being an effective advocate.

I’ve seen and made witnesses cry. I have angered and pleased judges. I’ve done favors for and shivved opposing counsel where I thought it was necessary.

The least valued and most underrated quality in the highly emotional world of the trial lawyer is kindness. I’ve been tough on witnesses in deposition who held out on the truth or misrepresented what I knew to be fact. I’ve taken witnesses who thought they were the smartest in the room for long rides until their fanciful arguments took them so far out of sight they couldn’t find their way back home. Over time, I learned that kindness – applied judiciously and not gratuitously – can be just as effective and rewarding. And why not be kind if you can?

A single act of kindness throws out roots in all directions, and the roots spring up and make new trees.

Amelia Earhart