The Court Technology and Trial Presentation Blawg features articles, reviews and news of interest to lawyers and other legal professionals. This blog is published by Ted Brooks, a Trial Presentation and Legal Technology Consultant, Author and Speaker. Ted's trial experience includes the Los Angeles Dodgers divorce trial, People v. Robert Blake murder trial, and a hundreds of high profile, high value and complex civil matters.

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Monday, June 13, 2011

The Stress of Trial

Funny, after many years of trial consulting, I've never bothered to consider what an incredibly intense level of stress we are expected to endure for weeks -- or even months at a time, when we are in trial. The Holmes and Rahe stress scale is basically a list of a list of 43 stressful life events that can lead to illness.

What was interesting, if not alarming, this past weekend at the ASTC Conference in Seattle, was when Ric Dexter shared that we can approach the breaking point, just by being in trial. Little things such as changes in work, sleep patterns, eating, exercise, living conditions, place of residence, personal habits, and social activities are all adding up, making us increasingly vulnerable to illness or other issues, such as a short temper or lack of patience for others.

I've always realized trial was stressful, and that tempers were often short (including my own), but I guess I never really gave it much thought. It's just part of the job. We just do our best to adjust, and try to be as effective as possible.

While I was working recently with three defense firms and their clients in a complex class action trial (insanely high degree of life stressors in play), one attorney commented to me that she had noticed my calm demeanor, and had surmised that I was certainly the lucky owner of a "Type B" personality. I had to chuckle. If I weren't OCD, and hadn't thoroughly prepared, checked, double-checked, backed up my data, and felt completely confident in all of my preparation the night before, I would not have gone to sleep. That's just me, but that's also just trial. There are no good excuses for failure when you're in trial, and there is no chance I would risk not having enough time to get something done in the morning. Last-minute changes are the rule -- not the exception.

Am I a Type B? Hardly. Do I appear to have those laid-back qualities to others? Apparently so -- and that's my goal. I've been told many times that I bring a sense of calm confidence to the trial team. I wouldn't want it any other way.

I enjoyed presenting my topic of iPad Apps for Litigation (go figure), but I'm also glad to have benefitted from this valuable bit of insight, along with all of the other great sessions and presenters.

This is one of those topics we don't often discuss. Please consider sharing this with others.


  1. Are you familiar with the Casey Anthony case here on the East coast? If so, would be interested in your opinion of defense counsel Jose Baez. It looks like he is under some serious courtroom stress.

  2. I’m certainly familiar with the case, but haven’t had time to observe the proceedings. What I can say is that every day in court takes a major toll, and a four-day court week is “comfortably” manageable.

    A five day court week becomes rather difficult, as it feels like you have no time to prepare, or handle any of your “normal” life and work duties.

    In this case, the court is running 6 days a week. While I truly enjoy working on complex and high-profile cases, I don’t envy the trial teams on this one.

  3. I just finished my 1st trial presentation (using trial director) in a 4 week med-mal case.
    I skipped lots of meals, lost a lot of sleep, and had to work during the NBA playoffs. In fact once the trial was over, my wife said "Now I get my husband back!"
    There was so much stress during the trial and preparing for closing arguments. The closing was very interactive with video clips, images, and documents. I knew that if I messed anything up, it could distract my client and severely effect the case. And yes, there were last minute changes in the morning before we started.
    Thankfully everything went well, and I had the satisfaction that I was there for my client, helped in many ways, and received praise for a job well done.

    And that made all the stress worth it.

  4. I can remember my first case back in 1999 like it was yesterday, not so much the details of the case, but the attorneys involved. Stressed and nervous as heck, I allowed myself one good cry. After that, I told myself that's it -- to buck up and take it like a man.

    Now, I'd like to think we are hardened soldiers going into battle. We show no fear, stay calm and always, always remain professional.

    I, too, have had many attorneys ask me how I do it. I tell them I have the easy job. Simple as that.