Founder and Master Trainer
I learned my craft through practice and preparation over the past 35 years. Starting at the Legal Aid Society's Criminal Defense Division in New York City, I tried four jury trial cases in my first year, five the next year, five the year after that, and many, many more during my 11 year stay as both a staff attorney and a supervisor. I opened my own firm in 1994 and expanded my practice into federal court and civil litigation. With each case, I prepared and studied relentlessly, and in the courtroom I tried my heart out.
I still love trying cases, but I also love sharing my knowledge with lawyers and students. At Brooklyn Law School I teach trial advocacy and advanced criminal practice. From 2015 to 2019, I trained and consulted with practicing lawyers through the Trial Skills Institute, which I co-founded. My new textbook, Advocacy Excellence: The Jury Trial, contains many of the lessons and booklets utilized in our live trainings. The Foundation for Excellence in Trial Advocacy continues the work of the Trial Skills Institute, with additional staff and a fresh perspective.
Times have certainly changed for trial lawyers! With the new digital age, and the rise of social media and texting, proving intent or any other state of mind has become a new adventure for both sides of the dispute. Did the plaintiff mean what she said on Facebook or was it a false Facebook self? Is that picture on Instagram photo-shopped? Can conspiracy be proven through a YouTube video?
In a recent criminal trial in federal court, I put my client on the stand to testify and deny his guilt. As with all smart courtrooms, there was a touchscreen monitor at the witness stand and monitors in the jury box for each juror. During his testimony there was a sidebar at the bench, and while we attorneys were talking to the judge, my client - unbeknownst to all of the lawyers - starting drawing hearts and smiley faces on his monitor, and the jurors were delighted! I think they acquitted him because they thought that a guy who chose to draw hearts and smiley faces couldn't be all that bad! He suddenly became human to them, and like them. And that's really what trial law is all about.