Get it Right – The First Time & Every Time

Not too long ago, I attended a lawyers’ luncheon at which the speaker was the president of the Florida Bar. He made a few comments about various challenges lawyers face with their clients, specifically, the expectation by the client that they essentially have all of the answers so that they get it right the first time, and every time. That’s a pretty tall order, but it sums up the expectations. In the types of high stakes cases in which we get involved, the pressure is on high for everyone! Good lawyers know there are limits to what they know and the results they get are constrained by the facts of the case. But litigating a case is not a world where there is room for trial and error or guess work. The lawyer generally has one shot to get it “right” for this case, with this client, with a certain judge, the potential jurors and ultimately, the chosen jury. Do overs are rare. While we’ve observed many “seat of the pants, know it all” attorneys, the subset of all attorneys who become our clients have realized that navigating some of the treacherous unknowns in a case involves hiring us, or someone like us. Getting it right in our world, and that of our clients, means achieving the best outcome for their clients. The chances for a best outcome are improved by conducting mock jury (or other mock fact finder) research to learn what “real people” think, how they react, and how they comprehend the case. Only by knowing, not guessing, about these things can a more clear perspective of a positive outcome be foreseen. We’ve written before that “positive outcome” is nebulous and depends on which side of the case one occupies, but the establishment of a benchmark against which to measure possible results and with which to make informed decisions goes a long way to getting it right – the first time, and every time.

Attorneys do not usually have advanced degrees in psychology or social science. As such, many attorneys do not have a full understanding of the scientific method, scientific research techniques (including proper sampling of research participants), human decision making, group dynamics, etc. That is why, of course, attorneys routinely turn to Magnus (or one of its qualified, as opposed to unqualified, competitors) to evaluate their case from a scientific perspective. Attorneys are also different from the average person in that the average person lacks a law degree and, for the most part, has no interest in court cases or the legal system, in general. The combination of these factors, that is, attorneys’ lack of scientific expertise, including, of course, the manner in which people make decisions, and the average person’s lack of legal expertise, can lead to negative outcomes in the courtroom. Often, the manner in which one communicates is just as important as the words he/she uses, such that attorneys must find out what works and what doesn’t work with the people who will be deciding the case. The only way to do this, with some degree of certainty, is to conduct pre-trial, pre-mediation, or pre-arbitration research. Guessing about how the decision makers will answer the questions on the verdict form is a dangerous way to represent one’s clients. There is no excuse for being unprepared when researching one’s case to ensure one gets it right the first time, and hopefully, every time, is as easy as contacting Magnus. Every client who depends on his/her attorney to obtain the best possible outcome deserves it.

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