In today's demanding legal environment, it is increasingly difficult to provide the next generation of lawyers with the trial techniques and skills needed to lead tomorrow's complex cases.
It is important for legal employers to provide robust training from the outset of an attorney's career to ensure that a firm's institutional knowledge is maintained, that "best practices" are sustained and updated, and that the firm's greatest resourceits peopleare ready to service clients at the highest levels.
There are essential techniques that are best inculcated in young lawyers at the beginning of their careers, then maintained and tested throughout. An effective training program should emphasize written advocacy, oral advocacy, legal best practices and hands-on experience through pro bono programs. When the smarts and diversity of today's young lawyers are combined with a firm's resources and opportunities, they emerge as first-rate trial lawyers for the next generation and win with clients, judges and juries.
In order to adequately represent clients in today's dynamic legal landscape, young associates should be continually schooled in the art of legal writing.
A comprehensive writing program, preferably in house, should cover topics such as: the use of legal authority, focus, tone and persuasive writing techniques. This baseline training is crucial for any effective trial team because written advocacy is the backbone of that team. They are required to file motions in limine, pocket briefs and intratrial dispositive motionsoften with little or no notice. Hence, any good trial techniques program must ensure that young lawyers learn how to write effectively.
Using in house to teach the writing seminars and workshops helps ensure that firm style, tone and best practices get passed on to the next generation. One simple but effective approach is to provide actual writing samples that exhibit effective structure, tone and persuasiveness along with samples containing common writing mistakes.
Because many younger associates are much more familiar with writing in a pedagogical setting than in actual practice, it is beneficial for any writing workshop to include a discussion on what the typical audience, e.g., clients, judges and opponents, view as effective and ineffective.
In addition to a formal presentation on legal writing skills, firms can provide training by encouraging associates to author articles on recent development in the law or any other interesting legal issues. Such an exercise not only allows associates to practice their writing skills; it also compels them to read treatises, cases and other legal writings which will undoubtedly strengthen their legal writing skills. Thus, when the call goes out for a brief to the court on short notice, there is a team ready to step up and do the job.
Over the past decade, it has been increasingly difficult to provide junior associates with hands-on, on-their-feet trial experience.
It is incumbent on their employers to seek alternatives to teach young lawyers the fundamentals of trial advocacy: voir dire, openings, closings, trial evidence, direct and cross-examinations, how to use and manage chambers, sidebars, instructions and conferences. This can be done through a series of in-house programs, designed by outside professionals or more experienced attorneys within the firm, and should generally be tailored to associate seniority and skill level.