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05 – Randi McGinn – A Narrative for Winning Juries and Cases

In this episode of Trial Lawyer Nation, Michael Cowen sits down with trial attorney and prominent legal industry speaker, Randi McGinn of McGinn, Montoya, Love & Curry P.A.

From the very beginning of their conversation, Randi delivers compelling insights on the one thing that still unites people, as well as influences in our decision-making process as humans. She also shares what engrains our decisions moving forward in trials, as well as in “real life” more times than not, regardless of what future evidence is acknowledged and/or presented.  More importantly is the necessity for trial lawyers to know and understand this concept in order to be able to implement it in a trial situation from the very beginning of a trial to impact a jury’s decision. Going even a step further, Randi relates this tactic to putting the jury in the “zone of danger” in order to make things more relatable to them through their own eyes versus their own logical view of how a scenario would likely play out. Truly a fascinating viewpoint and provocative example that is given, one that all lawyers should take note of.

Once the concept is revealed, Randi does a deep dive on knowing how to apply it, to which Randi describes her own firm’s use of focus groups in determining the best strategies toward figuring out the best way to leverage the information a trial attorney has at their disposal. Funny enough, some of their best ideas come from “ordinary people” seeing as attorneys can tend to become narrow minded when approaching another case. Fortunately, Randi’s approach is less like classical music where you have rules to follow and more like jazz where there are many ways to approach the narrative of a case. Having said that, Randi also notes that sometimes the work equated to a case is 200 – 300 hours outside the courtroom for every 1 hour inside the courtroom, which is part of what makes her and her firm so good at what they do.

Michael and Randi expose the dirty little tricks defense attorneys play against plaintiff attorneys and the “little guys” they represent, as it’s important to note that many jurors may not have any concept of how difficult that fight may be. Furthermore is the uphill battle regarding the misconception most have of people getting hurt and thinking “oh goodie, I have a lawsuit” while truth be told, the process to recovery is not an easy one, and in some cases is impossible.

The episode wraps up with a discussion aimed specifically at female attorneys entering the field and advice from Randi on how best to take things on, as well as for the men in the industry who want to empower women to help make the world a better place. Both Michael and Randi have some amazing insights to share which are beneficial regardless of gender or tenure.

 

Background on Randi McGinn

Randi McGinn is the author of “Changing Laws, Saving Lives:  How to Take on Corporate Giants and Win,” available through Trial Guides at:  http://www.trialguides.com/book/changing-laws-saving-lives/  Trial Lawyer Nation listeners can receive a $10 discount on the book by using the code LAWSLIVES10.

She is one of the country’s leading trial lawyers, having tried over 130 cases. The first woman president of the Inner Circle (100 best trial lawyers in the US), she is known for her creativity in the courtroom and use of demonstrative evidence to visualize opening, direct, cross-examination and closing argument. She has destroyed adverse witnesses by leaving a pretentious Beverly Hills doctor standing in front of the jury covered with post-its and clutching a grapefruit to his chest, by grilling a government snitch until he threw up and by exposing the fact that a world-renowned polygraph expert had been polygraphing his own sperm cells in the dead of night. In a particularly hard won police shooting case, the local SWAT cops once put her face on their Christmas pinata and took turns whacking it with a big stick.

She recently was appointed as a special prosecutor and tried the first murder prosecution in over 50 years of an Albuquerque police officer for an on the job shooting.

She started her career by giving birth to her daughter Heather, now age 37, the day before the 3-day bar examination.

Senior partner in a 5 woman, 2 man law firm in Albuquerque, New Mexico; double listed in criminal and civil litigation in Best Lawyers in America; International Academy of Trial Lawyers fellow; past AAJ Governor; past president of the New Mexico Trial Lawyers’ Association; NACDL board member, NITA-NCDC-UNM adjunct instructor.

 

For more info on Randi McGinn visit https://www.mcginnlaw.com/About-Us/Randi-McGinn.shtml

04 – Tim McKey – The Business Side of Practicing Law

In this episode of Trial Lawyer Nation, Michael Cowen talks with Vista Consulting’s Owner, Tim McKey, who has been consulting on operational matters with successful plaintiff law firms since 2008.

Tim’s CPA background steers his focus toward numbers and metrics but he concedes that there is a lot more that goes into running a successful practice such as culture and human resources, which allows him to approach firms from a holistic stance. As a client of Vista, Michael shares that he has a personal appreciation for Vista’s value to plaintiff firms, which he also acknowledges has allowed him to sleep better at night knowing the firm runs smoother than ever.

Michael explores with Tim his launching point in working with plaintiff firms; and discovers the strategic decision Tim made after owning his own CPA firm, which drove him to work with attorneys in a big way. Tim also describes his passion for helping firms define success and desire to help CHANGE the score instead of just KEEPING the score as a substantial motivation. During his transition to the consulting world, Tim lightheartedly recalls how similar the process turned out to be for his first two clients; those being a plaintiff’s attorney and a business at the polar opposite end of the spectrum (tune in to hear what the other business was). The process Tim uses to examine and analyze a firm is noted to work regardless of years in practice and focuses specifically on tightening up potential deficiencies within the firm and its client acquisition practices.

While being empathetic to the fact that attorneys in general are not introduced to business practices before setting out to run their own law practice, Michael recalls his early days in another law firm where trial and error was the modus operandi of their operations, long before he was introduced to Vista’s techniques. The difference between effective and efficient systems and processes are the cornerstone to what Tim advises throughout this episode as he offers listeners insights into breaking down their firm’s data to a dashboard view of the practice and what to do next.

This podcast concludes with Tim explaining things a step further to amplify the importance of having a project point person throughout the process of using what he calls the “public restroom theory.” It’s a wild analogy, but it hits home tremendously to anyone who tends to have lists of 100 “great ideas” being worked on by the firm. And for anyone who has felt the pain of turnover in their office, Tim talks about the mentality of “hire slow and fire fast,” along with the tools, training, and expectations being a key part in the onboarding process to set an employee up for success.

Background on Tim McKey

Tim co-founded Vista Consulting in 2009 with a vision to help plaintiff law firm owners reach their full potential. Tim has traditional CPA experience with local, regional, and national CPA firms. However, it is through Tim’s prior consulting practice that he found his passion. He has worked with many business owners assisting them with defining and attaining success in their business and personal lives.

Tim’s experience and interest allows him to assist Vista clients with developing a realistic vision of their firm into the future, creating a strategic plan to achieve that vision while working with firm owners in designing their desired lifestyle. Tim assists his clients in reviewing firm tax entity structure and accounting systems analysis, and financial reporting.

For more info on Tim McKey visit https://www.vistact.com/meet-the-team/tim-mckey.

03 – Mikal Watts – The Do’s and Don’ts of Running a Successful Law Firm

In this episode of Trial Lawyer Nation, Michael talks with one of the nation’s top trial attorneys, Mikal Watts about his pursuit of the goals he established at a very young age which forced him to make some tough decisions early on in his career. Fear, exhilaration, and even his wife thinking he was crazy couldn’t keep Mikal from doing what had to be done before it was too late in his career.

Mikal describes the choices that were made when he initially started his own practice and their unlikely, yet practical, reasoning. Mikal also recalls his first big solo case and how literally moving some furniture around helped him put his best foot forward and became a pivotal moment for his practice. Mikal offers advice on the do’s and don’ts for those looking to start their own firm, in addition to some of the sacrifices and deferred gratification that comes with the territory.

While there have been many to date, Mikal shares with Michael some of the verdicts that he has been most proud of thus far, such as his first case against Chrysler, and how those cases have added to the value of his practice beyond just the dollars and cents. Mikal delivers practical keys to success for the courtroom and how to truly connect with the jurors in the room, which by the way, have become keenly proficient in detecting BS (both factual and unscrupulous).

At the same time, both Michael and Mikal recognize and discuss the absolute need to break subjects down into their simplest terms (Mikal’s metaphor for tire tread is simply priceless). Humility and modesty shine through as Mikal describes his firm’s ethos and attitude for sharing with other lawyers, not unlike Michael and his firm, and the inherent benefits that come with such an inclusive environment, for both the firm and more importantly the clients they serve.

This podcast concludes with an important discussion of the biggest threats to the legal industry to which Mikal’s thoughts may surprise even the most seasoned attorney.

Background on Mikal Watts:

Mikal Carter Watts is the founding Partner of Watts Guerra LLP. He was born in Corpus Christi, TX in 1967. Mikal attended The University of Texas in Austin where he completed his undergraduate degree in two years. He then went on to the UT School of Law, where he also graduated in two years at the age of twenty-one. Following college, Mikal accepted a position working for The Honorable Thomas R. Phillips, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Texas, as a briefing attorney from 1989-1990. In 1997 Mikal opened his own law firm in his hometown and in 2006 he relocated to San Antonio.

Mikal was married in 1993 to his lovely wife Tammy. Together they have three children, Taylor, Hailey and Brandon as well as two grandsons, Caleb and Austin. His interests include spending time with his family, attending church, Spurs basketball games and Longhorn football games.

For more information on Mikal Watts visit http://www.wattsguerra.com/lawyers/mikal-c-watts

02 – Joe Fried – From 0 to 60 as a Subject Matter Expert

In this episode of Trial Lawyer Nation, Michael talks with acclaimed commercial motor vehicle trial attorney, Joe Fried, about his journey of going from 0 to 60 in becoming a trucking industry subject matter expert.

Joe’s calling to enter the field came from some unexpected sources as he explains to Michael the barrage of signs that led him to become a subject matter expert after finishing a large book of business against the Ford Motor Company. Joe describes the evolution of his role as a lawyer and the number one fear that was used as a driving force in his success.

On a larger scale, Joe encourages others to think beyond the boundaries of a case to serve a greater good by doing what’s right not only for the families affected but also what’s right for the industry and the families that can avoid having the same happen to them.

Throughout the podcast, the topic of hyper-specialization is explained both from the positive perspectives of becoming the only person who understands such a narrow subject, but also the trade-offs and sacrifices that need to be made in doing so with your practice. Joe also emphasizes the importance of inclusivity in the industry and using that mantra as a resource instead of something to be afraid of as he gives listeners a generous offer.

Background on Joseph A. Fried:

Joe Fried is one of only a few lawyers in America who limits his legal practice to handling truck and other commercial motor vehicle crash cases.  Based out of Atlanta Georgia, Joe has handled commercial motor vehicle crash cases in over 30 States and has helped recover more than $500 million for clients. He holds several record settlements and verdict.

When he is not actually handling cases, Joe is writing about and teaching other lawyers how to get the best results possible in commercial motor vehicle crash cases.  He has authored books, book chapters, peer reviewed articles and a Trial Guides DVD specific to this unique field and has given over 250 presentations around the Country specific to this field.

Joe is a nationally recognized leader in trucking litigation.  He is the founder and Founding Director of the Academy of Truck Accident Attorneys, immediate past chair of the Chair of the American Association of Justice Trucking Litigation Group, and President of the National Trial Lawyers Trucking Division.

Joe brings a diverse background to each case.  He is a former judge and police officer, has real world training in accident investigation and reconstruction, physics, engineering, and human factors.  At the same time, Joe has hundreds of hours of training in psychodrama, neurolinguistics and story development and is known for his unique ability to find and tell the compelling human story that underlies each of his cases.

For more on Joe Fried visit https://www.frg-law.com/the-firm/joseph-a-fried/

01 – Joshua Karton – Turning off the “Act” in the Courtroom

In this episode of Trial Lawyer Nation, Joshua Karton joins Michael for an introspective discussion on trial psychology and communication.

Joshua’s perspectives on turning off the “act” in a courtroom and getting back to just being (real) is deep and enlightening to listeners at all levels of the industry. The idea of “getting out of your own head” is turned upside down as Joshua challenges attorneys to embrace their role not as one there to protect themselves or their own ego, but rather as someone who is there to defend and protect their client and thereby connect with jurors who could see themselves in the position of the client one day and wanting the same protection.

Joshua shares what he believes allows people to trust through using everything you’ve got and not leaving anything in reserve. Joshua also breaks down the concept of not using negative objectives (such as not wanting to bore the jury, not wanting to piss off the judge, not wanting to embarrass yourself) that can’t be done, and instead committing to objectives that are incompatible with the negative. Michael shares an application of this concept through the evolution of his own practice and how it’s propelled his success and allowed him to alleviate many of the stresses that tend to plague and follow most lawyers.

Joshua expounds on the power of goodness and how the recent political landscape has challenged this approach of connecting with jurors and how deep the need to be right has become a critical hurdle in the courtroom. Michael takes these ideas a step further by discussing how they have affected even the validity of eye witness testimony and the influences of psychodrama sessions.  Self-awareness weaves its way throughout the podcast as a main theme that bolsters the success of attorneys in the right frame of mind and holds back others.

The episode concludes with a thoughtful discussion on the lens jurors see things through and how being aware of how you are setting yourself up to be perceived can change dramatically based on a single choice all attorneys have control over.

Background on Joshua Karton:

JOSHUA KARTON, president of Communication Arts, specializes in the application of the communication techniques of theatre/film/television to the art of trial advocacy. He serves on the faculties and develops curriculum for AAJ, the Gerry Spence Trial Lawyer’s College, NITA, the JAG Corps, ABA, NACDL, National Criminal Defense College, Loyola and California Western Schools of Law, state t.l.a.’s and criminal defense associations, as well as maintaining a professional practice of individual case consultation and witness preparation. Thirty years of work in this field culminated in his preparation of the winning oral argument to the United States Supreme Court in Hamdan v Rumsfeld, and the 2016 Lifetime Achievement Award for Excellence in Advocacy from Stetson University College of Law’s Center for Excellence in Advocacy. He co-authored Theater for Trial, released by Trial Guides November 1, 2017.

For more on Joshua Karton visit https://www.trialguides.com/authors/joshua-karton/

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