Kaufman Bar Meeting – Ted Lyons on Trials

The first Kaufman bar meeting of 2009 was today. Bar president Tracy Booker and Secretary Keenya Greeling did great work planning the vent. Turnout was higher than usual with around two dozen lawyers crammed into the law library.

One of the goals for the Kaufman Bar is to have CLE at every meeting. If you are a CLE speaker and will drive to Kaufman (county east of Dallas) let me know.

Today’s speaker was Ted Lyons. Ted is a civil trial attorney with a history of huge verdicts. Mr. Lyons offered his insight into successful trial litigation. Here is a breakdown.

Ted point 1-To successfully represent your client at trial you must understand him. It’s not enough to know the facts of the case. You must spend enough time with the client to understand his thought process, pysche, biases, motivation, etc.

This can be a struggle for defense lawyers, especially with appoitned cases. The disparity between my appointed clients and myself is epic. It’s not just an economic difference. I have a law/college/high school education, they don’t. I am lucky enough to be free of serious mental/physical illness, they aren’t. I grew up with two loving parents in the suburbs, they didn’t. My parents didn’t abuse me, use drugs, or spend time in prison etc…..

Also, the pace of criminal defense can make this a hard practice point. The less clients you have, the more you charge, the more time you can devote to understanding your client. This is an area I wish I had more time for.

Ted Point 2- Clients should approach the jury as a potential employer, and the trial as a job interview. Mr. Lyons talked about the presentation of your client. It’s important for your client to look good for the jury.

Another area I don’t spend enough energy on. I have a form letter telling my clients to dress appropriately and not wear hats or shorts. However, some of my clients don’t own a suit and can’t afford a nice trial outfit. Some of my clients are brought to court in chains (not in front of the jury though).

Finally, I’m not exactly a fashion guru. My wife dresses me (no shame in admitting that). That doesn’t mean I shouldn’t explore the role wardrobe plays in influencing a jury. Any studies on this?

Ted Point 3- Trial exhibits are important. Agreed. Ted is particularly fond of chronological time lines.

I agree completely that exhibits are vital to any case. Some jurors learn visually and you can help them understand your case by using power point, a chart, or even a dry erase board. Presenting evidence to a jury means adapting that information for the widest possible audience.

Ted Point 4-, Ted extolled the value of focus groups and mock juries. When Mark Cuban gets arrested for DWI, and hires me, then I will have my first client who can afford a focus group.

Until then, I stand on the shoulders of giants and keep up with juror research and psychology. That isn’t as effective as a focus group for a particular geographic area, but it’s cost effective.

This is an area local criminal defense bars could help their membership. Pooling funds to sponsor a focus group/mock jury with routine DWI issues for example. See how locals feel about field sobriety tests, refusals, and breath tests.

Mr. Lyons was a great speaker, his trial track record is testament to his methods. It was a pleasure to have him speak, and if you are injured, and need a case tried, call Ted.

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