Once again, I was reminded about the people who support the lead trial attorney. The lead attorney and 2nd chair attorneys get the attention, like the rock star. Like Ozzy, Mick, or Geddy, who are lead singers, the lead attorneys are in the spotlight (or hot seat). But, behind them, there is often a small army, or at least a platoon. The associates, paralegals, assistants, secretaries, receptionists, IT staff, and experts, consultants and many others work in support roles to assist the lead attorney in all aspects of litigation. As trial consultants, we depend on various parts of this army to a great extent. Without them providing us what we need to do our work (documents, conference calls, meetings, etc.), we could not do our work. I was reminded of this recently when working with a new client on a particularly challenging case with a tight time table. After we go through the rituals related to competing to get the gig (phone calls, meetings, proposals, etc.), once we are told we are selected, much activity follows. Some of this is mundane, like getting the consulting agreement signed, the retainer sent, selecting a research date (these items don’t always happen in this sequence), and sending us information about the case (legal documents) for us to read to learn the case details. It used to be that someone at the attorney’s office had to photocopy and ship packages of documents to us. Fortunately for us, but perhaps not for FedEx and the like, most of these documents are now sent to us electronically. But, all of these mundane tasks are time consuming and are almost always delegated by the lead attorney to someone else on the trial team. That makes these often harried individuals critical to us. And, as Jackson Browne once taught us in “The Loadout,” concerts and trials (even mock trials) don’t happen without a crew making it happen. In particular, for first time clients or their staff, the research process is a mystery. We try to bring them up to speed quickly by sending them things to read and by making specific requests, but undoubtably, this adds to their already full work loads. Though some attorneys need more encouragement than others, they usually grasp our needs and send things to us promptly. And, when the support staff understand our role on the team, they become even more valuable. Sometimes we meet the crew members; other times, we never put names and faces together. But, we try our best to remember what efforts they go to and acknowledge this with a small token of appreciation sent to them to let them know we noticed their efforts. The show must go on!
I have had the pleasure of working with attorneys and their trial teams for several decades. It never ceases to amaze me that almost all of Magnus’ clients have a small army of professionals working with them on behalf of our mutual clients. When I am involved in selecting a jury for a client, I am always fascinated to observe everything that goes on behind the scenes, including the attention to detail involved in outfitting the “war room.” Law firms, both large and small, are adept at ensuring their trial lawyers have everything they need in the war room, which is structured like an office, complete with a photocopy machine, computers, printers, and more legal pads and pens than I can count. The support team is often vast and is comprised of legal secretaries, paralegals, associate attorneys, and others, all of whom are there to assist the lead trial attorney in any way he/she needs. Many of Magnus’ cases are large cases involving multiple law firms. On these occasions, there are trial support teams from all of the law firms involved in the case. I often interact with numerous lawyers simultaneously, taking care to always know who is the “big dog” among them, lest I take orders from the wrong person. In the early years of my career, I worked in large, corporate environments where I was fortunate to have support staff to assist me in everything I needed to accomplish. Nowadays, I am not so fortunate due to working in a small organization in which I regularly perform tasks that others used to perform on my behalf. My experiences working in both types of environments makes me appreciative of everything a great support team does to assist the lead trial attorney. These people are truly the core of every strong trial team and deserve respect for the work they do behind the scenes of every trial.