The Disappearing Trial Attorney
Will the growing trend of not going to trial lead to injustice?
Life deals us some unexpected challenges, and hopefully yours will not be of the legal nature, but if they are, you may find yourself in need of a trial attorney. So, the question is, what makes a great trial attorney and how do I know which one to choose? Let’s face it: when you walk into that courtroom it could literally be your life that rests in the hands of the person you have chosen. We wondered what makes the difference and did a little investigating for you.
There is an emerging trend in the legal community, an entire segment of practicing attorneys, that seek to settle most matters through alternative dispute resolution methods. Their efforts to avoid the courtroom may often be to the detriment of their clients’ interests. There are attorneys that will never see the inside of a courtroom. Knoxville has an abundance of great attorneys, but the number of those that can be considered as true trial attorneys is dwindling—and fast.
Why does it matter? Isn’t it really better if the matter can be settled out of court? The question is whether you are getting the best settlement available. According to one of this year’s Top Attorneys, T. Scott Jones, “The opposing counsel has to believe that your lawyer is absolutely willing to split the ring ropes, step into the ring, and actually go 12 rounds. If they don’t think you have the will power or skill to actually try the case, then they are going to pay you substantially less than your case is worth. And, in the situation of representing the criminally accused, your client is likely to take a much longer sentence, or God forbid, one they don’t deserve at all. This court avoidance seems inconsistent with the operating principles by which we as attorneys are trained, and yet it has become part of the legal system reality.”
There is an art to practicing law. As the phrase implies, it takes practice. The more time an attorney has spent in court, the more familiar and comfortable he or she is with the process. That can make a huge difference. Attorneys like T. Scott Jones make hundreds of court appearances every year from matters as small as traffic tickets to murder or wrongful death cases. But the courtroom experience is analogous to what Abraham Lincoln implied in his famous quote: “Give me six hours to cut down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.” Whether Lincoln actually said that is controversial, but the fact remains that preparation is critical. According to retired Supreme Court Chief Justice Gary Wade, the most important aspect of a successful trial attorney is “preparation, preparation, preparation.” While the facts and the law almost always dictate the result, an accomplished trial attorney typically prevails in those close cases.
Make sure the attorney you choose is well-practiced, familiar with this area of the law, and willing to put in the amount of time necessary to present your case. We applaud all of the fine trial lawyers in our area for dedication to their craft.