Under Analysis: The perfect law practice should have practice to be perfect

Charles Levin, The Levison Group

Ahhh, late summer. The time when exhibition football games begin to dot the sports television airwaves, and the younger brothers of important clients’ copying company vendor’s president’s neighbor’s babysitters rejoice at the opportunity to use a law firm’s great seats to view such games in person. All across America, professional football players are lining up to play “for fundsies,” to help hone and sharpen their craft before putting it all on the line in the “regular season,” when millions of dollars will be at stake.

Which raises the question, of course, of “why don’t lawyers have exhibition games?” Virtually every state in our country requires lawyers to attend “continuing legal education” programs to ensure they are up on the latest nuances of the law. Yet, none require or even allow for any type of annual sharpening of trial skills through mock competition. It seems that the legal profession could learn a trick or two from the footballers across the way.

Law schools have long espoused the virtue of mock trials and mock appellate arguments through “mock trial” and “moot court” classes and competitions. It thus would not take a lot of energy for law firms to borrow the fake cases from the local institutions of higher learning and go head to head, in artificial judicialization.

Just as the football teams use the preseason games as an opportunity to briefly fine tune the skills of the stars, before benching them to review the skills of the up and comers who are trying to make the roster, law firms could use mock litigation in similar fashion. The first few days of preseason would be used to sharpen the skills of the barrister who settled all cases last year and has thus been out of the courtroom of a while, and the rest of the period would see him or her replaced with the newbies for the firm to evaluate everything from their oral presentation, evidentiary knowledge, case management, strategic planning, document review and summarization, deposition transcript summarization, and in court technology utilization.

The verdicts would not be reportable, and only a fool would bet on the outcomes. Students could still come watch, however, and the press could still cover the trials and try to convince the world they were important—in order to help their own ratings and circulation numbers. The top firm from St Louis could schedule a “trial” against the top team from Detroit. It would only be a matter of time before a cable television channel began televising the heated battles—as a way to allow their talking head legal experts to practice their game before the true trials of sweep weaks unfold. Then, SHO-TIME would unveil the preseason-long reality show “Cite Checks,” in which they would follow a particular firm’s preparations and training sessions throughout the exhibition season, chronicalling the thrilling drama that lurks just beneath the surface.

In time, we would all be famous.

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Under Analysis is a nationally syndicated column. Charles Kramer is a principal of the St. Louis, Missouri law firm Riezman, Berger, P.C. You may direct comments or criticisms about this column to the Levison Group c/o this newspaper, or direct to the Levison Group via e-mail, at comments@levisongroup.com.
© 2012 Under Analysis L.L.C.

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