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138 – Unlocking Success: Rick Friedman on Trying Cases, Self-Improvement, and Framing Moral Truth

Losing is what helps us develop as trial lawyers. If you quit too early after losing a case, you will never know the success you could have had.

On this episode of Trial Lawyer Nation, Michael Cowen speaks with renowned trial lawyer and highly influential author, Rick Friedman. Rick has won multiple nine-figure verdicts, including a verdict against Monsanto for $72 million. What is the secret to Rick’s success? Getting out of his own way.

Tune in to learn more about how to frame “moral truth” for the jury and how “uncomfortable facts” can become good facts by controlling the narrative.

Featured Guest

Name: Rick Friedman

About:   Rick Friedman is a partner at Friedman | Rubin who built his reputation representing regular people and small businesses injured by large corporations and government entities. He has won large verdicts in difficult cases in the fields of personal injury, defamation, insurance bad faith, and business torts. His books are considered essential reading among trial lawyers and include: Rules of the Road, Polarizing the Case, Becoming a Trial Lawyer, The Elements of Trial, and The Way of the Trial Lawyer

Company:  Friedman | Rubin, PLLP | LinkedIn

Connect:  LinkedIn

Episode Highlights 

[02:47] How the journey to becoming a great trial lawyer began: Early on, Rick immersed himself in “trial stuff”. Whether it was a book on opening statements or reading about social science, Rick credits various books as having a big influence on his development as a lawyer. 

[09:49] Get out of your own way: Rick learned a valuable lesson along the way—not every verdict is a referendum on your worth as a human being and your quality as a lawyer. 

[17:04] The power of therapy: Rick and Michael discuss how therapy improved their trial skills.

[22:06] Battle of moral truths: In virtually every case, there’s a conflict going on between certain moral values. The way lawyers frame that moral conflict impacts how jurors view the issues and how they decide the issues. 

[26:55] Flip the facts: Rick explains how almost every “bad” fact can become a good fact by controlling the narrative. 

[30:20] Rules of the Road: Rick talks about his book, how he develops the ‘rules of the road’ in his own cases, and the importance of simplifying the case for jurors. 

[40:59] Maximize your potential: You’ll always do better by just being yourself. Work with what you have, and don’t try to be the next somebody else.

[49:25] Continuous improvement: Lawyers are like messengers–delivering facts to the jury. Good messengers are those who do not promise anything they can’t deliver, are prepared, and are honest.

Connect with Trial Lawyer Nation

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In this popular and award-winning podcast for trial lawyers, noteworthy author, sought-after speaker, and renowned trial lawyer, Michael Cowen explores critical topics distinctive to the legal profession with some of the biggest names in the industry – specifically focused on developing extremely efficient law practices, securing a competitive edge in the industry, and wildly excelling in the courtroom.

Produced and Sponsored by LawPods.

137 – How Michael Leizerman Won $18 million in a Tough Case

As a trucking trial lawyer, if you are compassionate, people can walk all over you and you won’t get good results, you need to be both fierce and compassionate. 

On this episode of Trial Lawyer Nation, Michael Cowen and Michael Leizerman discuss the ins and outs of wrongful death litigation. Leizerman draws on his experience as a truck accident lawyer and shares the strategies he used to win a recent $18 million verdict.

He emphasizes the need to have open communication with the victim’s family and draw on their love for the victim. He also stresses that while the client comes first, it is also important to create a compassionate atmosphere by treating the defendant with fairness and compassion. However this compassion needs to be accompanied with fierceness.

Tune in for an in-depth discussion on litigating wrongful death cases, and learn how to draw out the story from the victim’s family, cross-examine defendants, and use a combination of compassion and fierceness to build a strong case.

Featured Guest

Name:  Michael Leizerman

About:   Michael Leizerman is a founder of The Law Firm for Truck Safety, which handles truck accident litigation across the United States.  He is the co-founder of the Academy of Truck Accident Attorneys (ATAA). He concentrates his practice in select catastrophic injury truck collision cases across the country.

Michael was the first Chair of AAJ’s Trucking Litigation Group. He is the author of the treatise Litigating Truck Accident Cases.  Michael has taken 15 truck and bus cases to trial since 2006. He has received record-breaking truck accident settlements and verdicts across the country, including multiple verdicts with punitive damages. Michael is also the author of the Trial Guides book The Zen Lawyer: Winning with Mindfulness

Company: The Law Firm for Truck Safety LLP

Connect: LinkedIn | Twitter

Episode Highlights 

[02:55] Handling the case in a way that is healing and cathartic: There is usually a lot of pressure to settle wrongful death cases because of the fear of retraumatizing the client. However, an attitude readjustment can help. Talking to the client from day one and discussing outcome goals is important.

[04:50] Spend a lot of time with clients before depositions: In wrongful death cases it is important to prepare clients to talk about the victim with love, since they are the experts on their relationship with the victim.

[07:32] The trial can serve as a healing process: One can be a compassionate lawyer by wishing well for all beings. While there is a duty to the client, you need not be harmful to the defendant. It is also important to help the victim’s family keep hope alive.

[11:43] Getting yourself in the mindset to be present for the client: Team up with other lawyers in the firm so that you can take a break, or take breaks when the client needs them. Meeting clients at their homes—a place where clients are comfortable–helps them open up. By being willing to enter the client’s world you can discover things that transcend demographics.

[17:02] The death of Dylan Monty, a 21 year old: The way the facts are presented can help with showing accountability, habit, and fault.

[22:22] Being fierce and compassionate: While some situations require a lawyer to call out the opposing party, lawyers also need to show compassion.

[28:00] Palpable Loss: By sharing stories during direct examination, the jury can be shown what was taken from the victim’s family. 

[34:31] Cross-examining with compassion: Thanking the truck driver for owning up to his part while asking what he is actually owning up to, and having the victim’s family sit out of the courtroom during cross-examination created a compassionate atmosphere.

[40: 00] Traits of a great lawyer: Listening, presence, being vulnerable, and having the courage to stand up are the skills of great lawyers.

[42:00] Growing The Law Firm for Truck Safety: To build the firm, Leizerman focused on choosing partners who shared his same values, were trucking lawyers, and who were both compassionate and fierce.

[44:17] ATAA: The Academy of Truck Accident Attorneys is a group of over 1,200 lawyers and paralegals that focuses on plaintiff’s trucking work. Education, safety advocacy, and sharing knowledge are its primary goals.

[52:02] Zen Lawyer Workshop: Leizerman, along with others, will be teaching at a retreat and workshop in October. For more information see thezenlawyer.com.

Connect with Trial Lawyer Nation

☑️ Follow us on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram & LinkedIn.

☑️ Subscribe to Trial Lawyer Nation on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, and YouTube.

In this popular and award-winning podcast for trial lawyers, noteworthy author, sought-after speaker, and renowned trial lawyer, Michael Cowen explores critical topics distinctive to the legal profession with some of the biggest names in the industry – specifically focused on developing extremely efficient law practices, securing a competitive edge in the industry, and wildly excelling in the courtroom.

Produced and Sponsored by LawPods.

136 – Natalie Arledge – Can You Be a Successful Trial Lawyer Without Being a Sh*tty Parent?

Being an exceptional trial lawyer requires mastering a lot of skills they don’t teach in school. The same can be said for being an exceptional parent. But, sticking the landing on both? That must be a pipedream, right?

On this episode of Trial Lawyer Nation, Michael Cowen and his new Partner, Natalie Arledge, discuss whether it’s possible to be a successful trial lawyer without being a shitty parent. Through the lens of a mom of two, Natalie discusses the challenges of developing as a trial lawyer, her journey from associate to partner, and the unique lessons she learned along the way.

Featured Guest

Name: Natalie Arledge

About: Natalie is a Partner at Cowen | Rodriguez | Peacock and a mom of two. Natalie was born and raised in San Antonio and attended Baylor University for college and law school. When not in the office, Natalie enjoys spending time with her family and their two dogs.

Connect: LinkedIn

Episode Highlights 

[3:37] From Associate to Partner: Natalie discusses developing her skills as a trial lawyer and her journey to Partner.

[7:50] Gaining Confidence as a Lawyer: How empathizing with her children and her injured clients helped sharpen her confidence in the courtroom.

[11:20] Observing, Seminars, Mentorship: The benefits of attending seminars, joining associations, networking with peers, and developing mentors.

[14:19] Behind the Wheel of a Big Rig: Micheal and Natalie share valuable lessons learned and their newfound appreciation for the trucking driving experience after getting behind the wheel at the Montana truck driving school.

[18:23] Life as a Lawyer and Parent: Success begins with focusing on being efficient with your time and understanding you simply cannot be present in both roles at the same time.

[23:12] Maternity Leave: Natalie reveals her fears and insecurities going into maternity leave, as well as the guilt of passing off her cases to her colleagues.

[31:37] Closing Advice: Developing a killer mindset, nailing depositions, crossing witnesses, and getting the defense to pay top dollar.

Connect with Trial Lawyer Nation

☑️ Follow us on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram & LinkedIn.

☑️ Subscribe to Trial Lawyer Nation on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, and YouTube.

In this popular and award-winning podcast for trial lawyers, noteworthy author, sought-after speaker, and renowned trial lawyer, Michael Cowen explores critical topics distinctive to the legal profession with some of the biggest names in the industry – specifically focused on developing extremely efficient law practices, securing a competitive edge in the industry, and wildly excelling in the courtroom.

Produced and Sponsored by LawPods.

135 – Amy Hall – The “Formula” for Effective Visual Trial Strategy

Lawyers know their cases backwards and forwards. However, jurors may need help honing in on the most important elements of a case. Visual trial strategy helps create a series of clear, tailored exhibits to present to a jury at trial.

On this episode of Trial Lawyer Nation, Michael Cowen talks to visual trial strategist, Amy Hall. Amy discusses her tried-and-true three-exhibit formula–the anchor, the link, and the payoff–which she uses to distill everything in a complex case into these three themes. Additionally, Amy explains that because jurors learn better by combining both visual and auditory means, she always recommends using physical exhibits while presenting your case instead of fumbling over technology. Tune in to learn how to employ visual trial strategy to guide juries through trials.

Featured Guest

Name: Amy Hall

About: Amy Hall’s background in cognitive science, journalism, the gambling industry, advertising, and graphic design, has given her a unique and highly relevant skill set for litigation strategy. She combines exceptional design, editing, and writing with real-world insights on decision-making and emotion to distill case themes into an effective visual strategy. She helps identify the difficult truths in a case, and then helps resolve them, providing tangible, ready-to-use tools that address the toughest case issues.

Company: Amy Hall’s Visual Trial Strategy

Connect: LinkedIn | Trial Strategy Academy CLE

Episode Highlights 

[2:10] What is Visual Trial Strategy?: Visual trial strategy involves demonstrative exhibits that are interrelated, interdependent, and strategically sequenced to support every meaningful point in your case. It’s a process that starts early in case development. 

[8:38] Learning From the Best: Amy’s first introduction into the world of litigation strategy came from famed strategist Ronald Jew, who taught her how to analyze cases and teach them visually and persuasively to juries.

[10:36] Developing a Visual Trial Strategy: Start by writing a neutral statement of the case that distills the case down to two pages. Then identify any landmines that might kill your case so that you know how to attack them. 

[13:22] Single Point of Failure: After you’ve laid the foundation for your trial strategy, you must then find the “single point of failure” in your case–why this happened and why it should have been prevented. For example, Amy will look for systemic failures that caused the harm, not just a single bad actor.

[16:36] Visual Trial Strategy Timeline: Amy will work on only one case at a time, including unpacking the case, putting it back together and creating demonstrative exhibits. However, this iterative process is not just about images to show the jury, but also should focus on the words used.

[19:51] Teamwork Makes the Dream Work: Amy prefers working with all members of the team, so long as it doesn’t exceed five people. With more than five people, there tends to be too many cooks in the kitchen.

[21:06] “No One is as Smart as Everyone”: Paralegals and legal assistants are not afflicted with the “curse of knowledge,” so they are invaluable in preparing for a trial. Their view of the case will be closer to a juror’s than the attorney who is deeply entrenched in the case, so be sure to thank your support staff!

[22:38] The Formula for Exhibits: Amy and her team will create a three-exhibit set–the anchor (preexisting conditions), the link (bad acts of the defendant), and the payoff (damages). Every fact in the case will fall into one of these three categories.

[25:36] Anchor-Link-Payoff Example: In a trucking case, for example, the first exhibit would be the safety measures and regulations in place for trucking companies. The second exhibit would be the trucking company putting an unsafe driver behind the wheel, and the third would be the harm to the plaintiff.

[29:04] Teaching the Formula Visually: Using a document deconstruction, Amy will simplify authorities and sources and provide the jury with a takeaway in a “chatty yellow box.” Michael now insists that his expert witnesses use this format in their testimony.

[32:01] Cases Should Feel Simple: When you’re using the three-exhibit set correctly, the case should be easy for jurors to understand, which allows you to earn their trust. From there, you can teach complex topics because they all ultimately boil down to your basic formula.

[34:34] The Benefits of Physical Exhibits: Based on her experience in over 400 cases, Amy has learned that jurors learn best from physical boards, even if it requires more preparation. Fumbling with technology will hurt your credibility, but don’t forget to practice with the physical boards too.

[40:38] Visually Depicting a Client’s Harm: Instead of relying on impersonal medical illustrations, focus on loss of function, including what they liked to do before the harm occurred. To demonstrate this, you can use the same three-exhibit set to present medical damages.

[43:22] Starting Early: Michael begins asking about the client’s life before the accident in their very first meeting. Ask your clients and their families early and often for pictures that you can begin using at mediation to signal to the defendant that you’re ready for trial.

[48:27] Cognitive Rationale for Visuals: Vision is key to how people learn, remember and care about things, but language is also vital. Visual trial strategy merges both to most effectively help jurors understand the material, even as they tune in and out.

[52:16] Repetition is Valuable: Jurors love when you show them your most important benchmark or keystone exhibits more than once. These help them link all the information together, which is another reason physical boards are preferable.

Connect with Trial Lawyer Nation

☑️ Follow us on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram & LinkedIn.

☑️ Subscribe to Trial Lawyer Nation on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, and YouTube.

In this popular and award-winning podcast for trial lawyers, noteworthy author, sought-after speaker, and renowned trial lawyer, Michael Cowen explores critical topics distinctive to the legal profession with some of the biggest names in the industry – specifically focused on developing extremely efficient law practices, securing a competitive edge in the industry, and wildly excelling in the courtroom.

Produced and Sponsored by LawPods.

134 – Sonia Rodriguez – Cracking the Expert Witness Code: Getting the Best from Your Retained Experts

“The relationship between the expert and the lawyer is a lot like a horse and a rider. I don’t want you to lead me in a dangerous situation, and I don’t want to lead you in a dangerous situation.”

On this episode of Trial Lawyer Nation, host Michael Cowen is joined by his partner Sonia Rodriguez, for a discussion on the dos and don’ts of working with retained expert witnesses. Sonia and Michael discuss the importance of consistent communication with your expert and remembering that while they may be the expert in their field, you’re the expert in the courtroom. Experts are equipped with technical knowledge, but when it comes to getting a jury to believe your story, it’s best to keep things simple. Just like a rider guides a horse, lawyers must guide their experts–the expert must know why they’ve been hired and how the lawyer sees them fitting in the case.

Featured Guest

Name: Sonia Rodriguez

About: Sonia Rodriguez, a native of San Antonio, Texas, is a partner at Cowen Rodriguez Peacock. Sonia has represented only plaintiffs for nearly 20 years, and she practices in the areas of personal injury trial and appellate law. Beyond the practice of law, Sonia has provided unwavering support to a number of important civic and community causes, including the Young Women’s Leadership Academy and the SAISD Foundation.

Company: Cowen Rodriguez Peacock

Connect: LinkedIn

Episode Highlights 

[2:07] The frustration of experts who don’t cite their sources: Retained experts may refuse to back up their opinions with authorities and publications, however, it’s vital that juries hear those citations. The best kinds of experts are natural teachers who want to back up their opinions with data. 

[5:42] Dealing with unwieldy experts: When faced with an expert who doesn’t want to anchor their opinions, Sonia reminds the expert that she is trying to protect them because Daubert motions are a real risk. 

[7:37] Ensuring nothing is missed: In order to keep everyone on schedule, Sonia communicates with her experts early and often, and always provides a “fake” deadline that builds in plenty of room for flexibility. Sonia also tells experts what they will be using to tell their story to the jury, so they can craft their trial testimony accordingly. 

[14:00] When one expert relies on another: Sometimes experts rely on the opinions of another testifying expert to craft their report, so Sonia recommends connecting experts and coordinating schedules as early as possible.

[19:42] How to ensure testimony is cohesive and persuasive: Sonia suggests figuring out where the expert’s opinion fits into your larger story at trial to utilize their testimony most effectively. Keeping the opinions in plain English is always a must.

[24:45] “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” Experts: Sometimes experts can be charming and forthcoming on direct examination, but completely turn into another person on cross-examination, becoming defensive and argumentative. That’s when you know it’s time to stop using those experts!

[26:53] Pitfalls of listserv recommendations: While Sonia praises fellow members of the plaintiff’s bar for providing expert recommendations on the listserv, Michael cautions that you must always take these recommendations with a grain of salt and consider the source.

[30:20] Sonia’s final advice on experts: Don’t rely on staff to handle communications with experts; managing experts yourself minimizes the risk of miscommunications. Next, don’t forget to provide experts with key discovery materials as they are uncovered. Finally, build a personal relationship with experts.

Connect with Trial Lawyer Nation

☑️ Follow us on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram & LinkedIn.

☑️ Subscribe to Trial Lawyer Nation on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, and YouTube.

In this popular and award-winning podcast for trial lawyers, noteworthy author, sought-after speaker, and renowned trial lawyer, Michael Cowen explores critical topics distinctive to the legal profession with some of the biggest names in the industry – specifically focused on developing extremely efficient law practices, securing a competitive edge in the industry, and wildly excelling in the courtroom.

Produced and Sponsored by LawPods.