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Promoting Trial Lawyers of Color

By Usman Baporia | Jun. 2, 2009

Expert Advice

Jun. 2, 2009

Promoting Trial Lawyers of Color

Here are a few ways to satisfy in-house counsel's need to feel comfortable with an attorney's trial skills, short of seeing the candidate actually try a case.

- Conduct Mock Trial Exercises. Many companies find it advantageous to have someone other than current trial counsel play the role of opposing counsel. The mock trial can involve a targeted, select role that does not involve modification of the existing trial team. It's a great way to get a look at a lawyer's potential to be the client's advocate. Short of a full mock trial, think about utilizing a minority lawyer to conduct mock direct or cross-examinations of key witnesses or to present a mock opening statement or closing argument. This type of work is done all the time, as clients evaluate (and rank) trial strategies. An excellent way to observe the skills of a trial lawyer is to ask him or her to perform a variation of the mock trial role by examining the themes and key documents in the case. Then have the lawyer lay out a strategy for defeating the company's case from opposing counsel's perspective.

- Identify Discrete Tasks within the Overall Trial. The larger the trial, the greater the number of tasks. One way to give clients exposure to a lawyer of color is to identify a discrete yet meaningful task for him or her to perform. Examples include developing and testing trial themes; outlining direct and cross-examinations of certain witnesses; and allocating responsibility for a particular claim or defense in a complex case that has both claims and counterclaims at issue.

- Increase Participation in Client Presentations. Corporate clients can gain exposure to trial lawyers of color if those lawyers are invited to conduct in-house continuing legal education or other presentations that demonstrate trial skills. These presentations can be tailored to the client's unique needs or interests for maximum benefit. Such presentations can also serve as valuable trial-skills training for in-house counsel, who sometimes need to monitor and contribute to the formulation of trial strategies. -MM


Usman Baporia

Daily Journal Staff Writer

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