January 5, 2009
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Trials. We love them, we hate them. If you’re a client, you really hate them. Or at least you should. There are moments of high drama, but the vast majority of trials are as boring as watching grass grow. Even trials that attract the prurient interests of the public (think OJ or Spector), that force the world to watch with morbid fascination, are, for the most part, boring. Why do you think that Court TV shows only the “highlights”? Nevertheless, if you take an important trial and boil it down to its essence – take out all the tedium, the voir dire, the endless sidebars and evidentiary disputes, the scientific/technical testimony that is often incomprehensible, the marginal witnesses that everyone in the courtroom dozes through — and leave just the heart of the the case, what remains can be fascinating. Law Professor Douglas Linder has done just that at his site, Famous Trials. There you can read about trials ranging from Socrates in 399 B.C., to the 9/11 trial of Zacarias Moussaoui in 2006. As the trials move into the so-called modern era, the coverage expands in detail. The site contains many trial transcript excerpts, multimedia files, and more. It is truly a labor of love, and a service to the world. Or at least those few who are interested in this kind of stuff. Check it out here.
August 7, 2008
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Litigation takes the place of sex in middle age. Gore Vidal I wrote in some detail almost two years ago about how trials can be very bad for clients. In the linked article I wrote: Sadly, too many lawyers (you hear their ads on the radio and see them in the legal journals – “courtroom lawyers,” “trial lawyers”) are often as willing to take their clients to trial as generals are to commit their troops to battle. Now, a study reported in the New York Times seems to find empirical confirmation for this. I quote from the article, linked here: Note to victims of accidents, medical malpractice, broken contracts and the like: When you sue, make a deal. That is the clear lesson of a soon-to-be-released study of civil lawsuits that has found that most of the plaintiffs who decided to pass up a settlement offer and went to trial ended up getting less money than if they had taken that offer. . . . In just 15 percent of cases, both sides [plaintiffs and defendants] were right to go to trial – meaning that the defendant paid less than the plaintiff had wanted but the plaintiff got more than the defendant had offered. . . . Critics of the profession have long argued that lawyers have an incentive to try to collect fees that are contingent on winning in…