I am a one-lawyer law firm and I have had four trials over the past four years. Fortunately, I have had co-counsel for all of them. (We didn’t win every trial but I have gone three for four including a $10,000,000 jury verdict.)
Only a fool goes into trial by choice without someone protecting his or her backside. Minnesota solo lawyers would be wise to team up with experienced trial co-counsel in those very rare events when civil cases do not settle before trial. If you’re headed to trial and you’re on your own, call me. We might be able to get the job done and there is no question that you and your client would be better served with back-up rather than going it alone.
What are the barriers to universal acceptance of this common sense advice?
- A lawyer might be worried that a trial comrade would second-guess strategy or butt heads on tactical decisions;
- This is a fair concern and illustrates why clear lines of authority must be drawn up at the start.
- A lawyer might be worried that a trial comrade will “steal” one’s client;
- This is not a fair concern because the trial comrade comes in very late in the process and gets out a.s.a.p.
- A lawyer headed into trial does not have time to go shop for a trial comrade and to negotiate such a deal;
- This is a fair concern but it simply highlights (1) that trial lawyers need to see things in advance and prepare for them; and (2) that a pre-existing knowledge and trust with the trial comrade is obviously preferable.
- A lawyer might be worried that technological glitches and other logistical issues would destroy any advantage of having two trial lawyers rather than one;
- This was undoubtedly true 10 or 20 years ago but it is not true today. With mobile devices, cloud computing, and other newer technologies, these concerns are unwarranted.
- The trial comrade might be reluctant to jump into a case at the 11th hour, without having been part of the formation of the groundwork of the case;
- This is a fair concern of the trial comrade and highlights the importance of some due diligence by the trial comrade. If a solo lawyer has positioned a case so poorly that a trial poses huge risk and obstacles (lack of key witnesses or evidence), then obviously another lawyer might balk at the prospect of plunging into the thick of it.
All of these issues can be addressed. As I have suggested in earlier posts, the technology is here so that civil litigants, clients, that is, can enjoy the benefits of lean legal representation, which can expand or contract on the fly. Rather than hiring and paying for more lawyers than clients need, rather than making due with fewer lawyers than clients should have, whether at trial or earlier in larger cases, consider teaming up. Call me and let’s talk about it.