What is a Trial Lawyer?

Written By Jaime Jackson

Jaime Jackson shares his thoughts and experience.

A Predatory Trial Lawyer.

Greedy.

Someone who will lie to win their case.

Ambulance chaser.

We have heard all the stereotypes and, for some lawyers, these sadly hold true. But like most stereotypes this dangerous misconception is based on inaccurate or incomplete misinformation, at least as it relates to most of us.

I am proud to be a trial lawyer and you should be too!

We strive to make the world a safer place.

We help families of victims of wrongdoing whose lives have been blindsided and thrown into chaos through no fault of their own.

We strive to improve the lives of everyone we meet.

We help enforce safety rules that protect us and hold those that violate safety rules accountable for the damage caused.

We deter repeated violations of safety rules so that preventable tragedies do not repeat themselves because if negligent wrongdoers get away with it, conduct rewarded is conduct repeated, and, with business as usual, next time it may be your family that ends up in miseryland.

More than 400,000 patients die each year in hospitals due to medical errors, according to a recent study published in the Journal of Patient Safety. Without trial lawyers holding hospitals and doctors accountable for these systems failures, the number of preventable deaths will increase.

The Ford Pinto, the Exxon Valdez oil spill, Ford Explorer/Firestone tires, and Takata exploding airbags are all examples of tragedies where the government was unable to hold corporations accountable for their violation of safety rules and damages caused. However, trial lawyers and juries were, while also deterring other corporations from similar conduct—helping make our families safe.

Trial lawyers hate injustice. We reject the notion might makes right.

We trial lawyers go to court for our clients; to help repair the damage done to their lives, to help make sure safety rules are followed, and to deter future violations. Most lawyers desperately try and avoid going to court, but we trial lawyers are a different breed. We give our all—sometimes to our own and our families’ detriment—missing important family events or sacrificing our own health as we put in the necessary time to prepare and provide our clients the best preparation possible and their day in court.

As much as we pour ourselves into our clients’ cases, as much as we care about our clients, and even with all the sleepless nights, time away from our families, missed meals, and sometimes a late night beer or glass of wine, we trial attorneys must also take care of ourselves so that, in turn, we can better take care of our clients and our families.

One of my favorite books is Touching the Void by Joe Simpson. It narrates the ordeals faced by Joe and his climbing partner, Simon, as they are the first to climb Siula Grande in the Peruvian Andes. There are many parallels to the life of a trial lawyer: from preparation, to hard work, to life altering falls. There are also many lessons; like the greatest danger may be when we least expect it, or when we think we may have already overcome the hardest parts. But, to me, the most important lesson is the following quote that applies to us as trial lawyers, as well as moms and dads, neighbors and friends:

“Ultimately, we all have to look after ourselves, whether on mountains or in day to day life…[T]hat is not a license to be selfish, for only by taking good care of ourselves are we able to help others…[I]n the complexity of everyday life, the price of neglecting this responsibility might be marriage breaking down, a disruptive child, a business failing, or a house repossessed.”

“The trick is to anticipate all the possible consequences of what you set out to do so that, if things do go wrong, you are better able to stay in control.”

We share our clients’ pain, we listen quietly to our clients’ stories of misery from those who have lost a son, daughter, husband, wife, or parent, or have been paralyzed, burned or brain damaged by someone’s violation of safety rules or by dangerous products. We take our clients’ problems and miseries home with us because we trial lawyers care. But we must also not forget to take care of ourselves and our own families. This means getting enough sleep, eating healthily, perhaps drinking in greater moderation, meditating, finding time with our own families, going to cross-country meets, and watching lacrosse games and tennis matches. We must also keep ourselves physically fit, workout, and keep ourselves in shape. Trials and the preparation that goes along with them are emotionally and physically demanding—the trial lawyers’ ultramarathon.

So this is who we are. We are the ones whose faces are marred by dust and sweat and blood. We are the ones who know the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spend ourselves over and over again in worthy causes to right another wrong, to find justice and put it where it belongs, for the other shoe to drop, to save a family, and protect our community; a champion who will help hold those who violate our safety rules accountable for damages caused and to keep our families safe.