Tips for a successful case offered at 'Bootcamp'

By Mike Scott

Legal News

Preparing a successful case is one of the most important skills that a young lawyer can learn. And they will have the opportunity to do just that at a Barristers' Bootcamp seminar hosted by the Detroit Metropolitan Bar Association on Tuesday, May 4.

"Tips for Preparing a Successful Case" will feature David Winter, a shareholder with Sommers Schwartz in Southfield, and Mark Peyser, a litigator at Howard & Howard in Royal Oak. The seminar will focus on how lawyers can appropriately prepare for a case in a way that can increase the likelihood of a settlement or a positive trial outcome.

Both trial experts will share a variety of tips and techniques that can make a positive difference in any trial practice, from initial engagement to pre-trial motions. Such substantive preparation is something that young lawyers need to learn.

"We expect that many attendees will be lawyers who are starting out on their own and the message is what they need to do in order to prepare a case," Winter said. "They need to know the law, the facts and be very prepared."

Winter compared the role of a successful trial lawyer to that of a person or entrepreneur purchasing land. The rule of thumb in real estate is, "location, location, location." As a trial lawyer, Winter says the rule of thumb is, "preparation, preparation, preparation."

Law school helps to prepare future lawyers to effectively do many things very well, Winter said. What can be missing at times is the process of building a case and the anatomy of a law. It is important for young lawyers to know the legal issues involved, the damages, and to understand which resources are available for assist them.

"I can't stress the importance of using and having mentors in the legal field strongly enough," Winter said. "There are lawyers available to answer your questions."

Stephen Dunn is a trial attorney at Howard & Howard and a new board member of the DMBA Barristers. He has spent time as an assistant prosecuting attorney for Oakland County and is also a commissioned officer in the United States Army Reserve JAG Corps.

As the lead trial counsel in more than 100 cases in his young career, Dunn, who recruited Peyser to help with the Bootcamp seminar, believes that young litigators need to learn how to be aggressive and take initiative when they are preparing for their case.

"You have to be bold. It is really a requirement for trial lawyers to act as bold and aggressive as they can within ethical and legal rules," Dunn said. "A good trial lawyer won't be afraid to step outside of his or her comfort zone."

Traditionally many new lawyers have been able to lean on partners or experienced associates in mid-sized to large firms for mentor help. But with the severe recession still looming over Michigan, more new law school graduates have to practice on their own or in very small firms. That shouldn't prevent them from searching for mentors.

"You need to know your limitations and that there are (legal strategies) that you don't know," Winter said.

"In many ways building a successful case is similar to creating an interesting story. The lawyer, like a reporter or writer, needs to first conduct research. They need to gather facts, determine elements of proof and outline the beginning, middle and end of case. A lawyer also needs to know other components, such as general and local court rules, and must understand 'speed limits' to abide by."

As Winter explains in this analogy, litigators have an added advantage because they have already read the final chapter of the "book." They know the end before the case even begins, and it is the role of a litigator to find the facts within the elements.

"We're all storytellers, that's what we do," Winter said. "Most young lawyers understand the importance of knowing the rules of evidence but you also need to keep in mind the big picture."

Dunn may join Peyser and Winter in leading the seminar and he said preparing to be an advocate for your client requires passion and hard work as well.

"I agree (with Winter) that preparation is a key and it may take more time to prepare when you are less experienced," Dunn said.

"Tips for Preparing a Successful Case" is the latest in a series of "Bootcamp" seminars run by the DMBA Barristers. It will be held in the SMART Detroit Training Room in Detroit's Penobscot Building from 1-2:30 p.m. on Tuesday, May 4. The cost to DMBA members is just $5 and the price for non-members is $10.

Contact the DMBA for additional information at (313) 961-6120.

Published: Mon, Apr 26, 2010