The Daily

Why I’m A Trial Lawyer (No. 4)

Abraham Lincoln’s notes for a law lecture (discussed in the previous post here) are the subject of a ‘Professionalism Movement’ in the legal profession: the idea is that real change toward a better (more ethical) practice is caused not by changes to Model Rules but by freely acting agents – lawyers who voluntarily aspire for a higher ethical ground. [1]

The Lincoln notes also venture into the specifics of a good law practice.

The writing desk my Dad gave me, my Grandfather’s gavel and my Uncle’s Purple Heart.

Never let your correspondence fall behind. Whatever piece of business you have in hand, before stopping, do all the labor pertaining to which can then be done. When you bring a common law suit, if you have the facts for doing so, write the declaration at once. If a law point be involved, examine the books and note the authority you rely on upon the declaration itself, where you are sure to find it when wanted. The same of defenses and pleas. In business not likely to be litigated – ordinary collection cases, foreclosures, partitions and the like – make all examinations of titles and note them, and even draft orders or decrees in advance. This course has a triple advantage: it avoids omissions and neglect, saves your labor when once done, performs the labor out of court when you have leisure, rather than in court when you have not. Extemporaneous speaking should be practiced and cultivated. It is the lawyer’s avenue to the public. However able and faithful he may be in other respects, people are slow to bring him business if he cannot make a speech. And yet there is not a more fatal error to young lawyers than relying too much on speech-making. If any one, upon his rare powers of speaking, shall claim an exemption from the drudgery of the law, his case is a failure in advance.”

Ethics and diligence are the pillars of a strong trial practice. A lawyer needs to be free to perform quality work on each case he brings. Make sure your lawyer has his hands on your matter and is serious about achieving success for YOU – rather than delegating the handling of your case to lesser trained staff or, worse, outsourcing the work.

[1] Beyond the Model Rules, Wm. And Billie Ellis, Thomas M Cooley Law Review 2009