Article Title

Basic Trial Advocacy


Mary Crates taught me to “begin as you mean to go on.” Peter Murray's book is a good place to begin for those embarking on a life of trial advocacy. For those of us whose beginnings are distant and often painful memories, it is an excellent reminder of where we meant to go. Trial advocacy is an infinitely complex task. This simple fact is both its joy and curse. Teaching trial advocacy is equally difficult. There is no “never” and no “always.” There is a host of commonly accepted maxims, many of which are contradictory on their face and all of which are frequently dead wrong in specific application. The complexity of the task is a siren call, luring both teacher and student into a maze of abstract categorization and ephemeral “what if 's.” Each is ever more divorced from the reality of persuading someone to adopt your perspective of a historical event and its significance. Roles and goals proliferate faster than mosquitos in a spring rain. Story teller, scholar, zealous believer, professional sceptic, officer of the court, counselor, impresario, teacher, naysayer, predictor, and spin doctor are all part of the trial lawyer's job description. Credibility of message and messenger, the mandate of law and policy, conversion of information into evidence, the exclusion of adverse evidence, procedural mandates and discretion, and the rules of law all are concerns of the trial lawyer. As if the job were not difficult enough, every role is played out in the presence of the ultimate heckler. Every plan also must anticipate the arguments and stratagems of a skilled opponent. The adversarial environment is inherently chaotic. Simplicity and clarity often are the first casualties of any attempt to impose academic discipline on the subject. Basic Trial Advocacy is a clear, simple guide to the major problems confronting the trial lawyer. The book is both brief and, with one omission, complete.

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