September 01, 2015

Opening Statement: Seven Tips for Being a Better Lawyer

Advice derived from 35 years of practice, exclusively as a business litigator.

Steven A. Weiss

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One of the great joys of being chair of the Section of Litigation is the opportunity to write the Opening Statement column. Where else can you write an article on your choice of subjects, and pretty much be guaranteed that it will be published? It is my pleasure to take the baton from previous chairs, all of whom are such good writers that they could describe paint drying and make it seem interesting. I will do my best to continue a long tradition of articles that provide useful advice to our members, without being boring. My goal is not only to have each of you read the Opening Statements, but also to read to the end of the issue.

As we all know, litigation is an art, not a science, and every case is different in its needs and its challenges. This is what keeps us engaged year to year. It is also one of the reasons that some lawyers are much better litigators than others. Litigation requires a constant series of judgment calls, ranging from which attorneys to assign to a case, where to file suit, which witnesses to put on the stand, and which questions to ask during voir dire. Judgment calls involve procedural as well as substantive issues, and also involve ethical and business questions. For those lawyers at law firms, there are additional judgment calls about working with other lawyers (and non-lawyers).

The following advice is derived from my 35 years of practice, exclusively as a business litigator. The views and opinions are mine, not those of the ABA or the Section of Litigation, and there are many seasoned litigators who will disagree. I hope at least a few of them are of use.

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