Tag Archives: trial

Here’s a gunner, there’s a gunner, everywhere a gunner gunner

8 Jan

We’ve reached the point in the week where I’m too tired to find an appropriate graphic for this post.  We’ll go for the tried and true lolcat. Obviously.

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The only people who willingly spend the first week of the year in trial college are gunners.  There’s no way around it. And I’ve come to admit that I, too, am a gunner.

For those of you smart enough to have foregone law school, this is the definition of “gunner” (courtesy of UrbanDictionary):

A person (usually a medical or law school student) who uses over 3 different colored highlighters, tabs every page in their notebook, and raises their hand after every question asked by their professor, regardless of if they know the correct answer or not. Gunners like to hear themselves speak. They use complicated words to make themselves sound smart even though they have no idea what’s going on in class- they pretend they do. They are trying to intimidate you and eliminate competition.

The foolish thing about being a gunner at trial college is that there really *isn’t* competition. Sure, there’s a mock jury who picks who wins, so I guess there is a win/loss aspect, but the overarching purpose is to improve your trial skills.  That being said, and despite trying to keep my obnoxiousness under control, I admit that at times I totally caved to the “ooh pick me! pick me!” behavior.  But so did everyone else. That’s what you have here.

Most of my colleagues are in study rooms gearing up for their trials.  My trial isn’t until Thursday morning, so I have a little more time to prepare.  I also believe in the law of diminishing returns.  I worked darn hard during class hours from 8:30am-5pm today.  I worked through lunch.  I discussed and focused and gave it my all.  Then instead of spending my evening holed up in a study room with my trial partner, I went to yoga class. Hot hot hot yoga class.  And I think that change of scenery was just enough to enable me to structure my thoughts, so that now I think I have a pretty darn good opening statement prepared.  Sometimes a break really is worth its while.

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There is no success without preparation

5 Jan

Trial college went from 7:30am-7pm today, with nary a break in between. Boy am I tired. And I still have homework.

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We focused on opening statements today. I do not like doing openings. I don’t care much for closings either, but openings are my absolute least favorite part of a trial. I’m very much an action/reaction, question/answer, challenge/solution kind of person, and openings are so one sided. It’s a speech, but it’s a speech that you have to make a totally disinterested panel of jurors interested in. It’s super super hard.

Since work has been very busy, I did not do the reading ahead of time and did not prepare my opening ahead of time. I thought “oh heck, it’s a CLE. Who prepares for a CLE?” It’s no defense, but I wasn’t the only one. Out of my class of 8, it was noticeable that only two people prepared ahead of time. And you know what the result of this was? Six less than stellar opening statements.

I was embarrassed. I was embarrassed because I was cocky. I was sitting in the chair thinking “oh heck, I’ll wing it. It’ll be great. I know how to do trials.” But you know what, that’s not true. I’ll do great if I prepare. And I didn’t prepare, so my opening was bad. I’m glad for the lesson. I needed to be cut down to size. Overconfidence does not win trials. Being prepared wins trials.

The instructor (a distinguished Virginia Circuit Court Judge) remarked that my opening sounded more like an appellate brief than an opening statement. He was completely right. Big words and complex sentence structures doesn’t win over juries. I need to remember my audience.

I’ve learned helpful lessons today. Though I fell flat on my face in my opening, I am proud that I did not get defensive and try to justify my performance. I listed to the instructor’s comments and realized Yes. He’s right. I did it wrong. He’s telling me I did it wrong because he is trying to help me.

I did it wrong today, but I’ll do it right tomorrow. And even if I do it right tomorrow, I still need to listen closely, because there is so much more to learn.

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