April 25, 2019

Litigation and Trial Practice Committee: Sharing a Passion for Justice

By Rick Morefield

What do you call a room full of trial lawyers? That sounds like the setup for a predictably insulting lawyer joke. But the simple answer is that it might be a meeting of TIPS’s Litigation and Trial Practice Committee (formerly known as the Trial Techniques Committee). With over 2,000 members, the Litigation and Trial Practice Committee is the largest of the Section’s many committees and one of the most active. It’s the place where new trial lawyers can learn more about their craft and where experienced trial lawyers can trade tips and tactics with their peers and share wisdom with the next generation.

The committee’s mission is to be a key resource for lawyers who advocate for their clients in courts and other tribunals. Our goal is to provide a forum where lawyers can learn from each other and share the techniques, tactics, and strategies necessary to succeed at the highest level of trial practice. This committee is for lawyers who understand that there is no magic pill for becoming a great trial lawyer; it is a lifelong pursuit best carried out in the company of others who share the same passion for justice.

As litigators, each of us has strengths, weaknesses, and blind spots. This is as true for the seasoned trial warrior as it is for the newly minted associate. The Litigation and Trial Practice Committee is the place for trial lawyers who want to take their advocacy skills to the next level, who want to learn from the experiences of great litigators from across the country, and who want to share what they have learned with their brothers and sisters of the trial bar.

A great benefit of Litigation and Trial Practice Committee membership is the opportunity to rub shoulders with some of the finest trial lawyers in the country, as well as with the next generation of great trial lawyers. We often hear about the vanishing jury trial. Without a doubt, jury trials are less frequent than they were 30 years ago. Yet, civil jury trials are more important than ever. Each civil jury trial that takes place today serves as a reality check that keeps both plaintiffs and defendants rational and honest about their rights and obligations.

The declining frequency of jury trials affords fewer opportunities for newer lawyers to develop the skills necessary to protect their clients’ rights. That means TIPS committees such as the Litigation and Trial Practice Committee play a critical role in the education and preparation of the next generation of trial lawyers. Those of us with more years behind us than in front of us have an obligation to share what we know with less-experienced lawyers. Members of the committee embrace that obligation and opportunity.

The Litigation and Trial Practice Committee is focused on more than just trial work. You may have noticed that our name recently changed from the Trial Techniques Committee to the Litigation and Trial Practice Committee. That change brings our committee name into better alignment with our mission to help trial lawyers succeed at all stages of the litigation process, from the pleading stages through posttrial motions. After all, we can’t excel at trial if we don’t handle pretrial litigation and posttrial tasks with skill and creativity. And, we know that our pretrial litigation skills may be wasted if we don’t have the ability to skillfully tell our client’s story to a judge or jury.

The Litigation and Trial Practice Committee carries out its mission in several ways. First, we generate great publications and provide a forum for our members to get their work published and distributed nationwide. You will find our members writing about important litigation and trial practice topics in our quarterly newsletter. For example, the latest edition of our newsletter includes articles on “Preparing Your Company Witnesses for the Gotcha Question,” “Mastering the Unspoken Word—A Trial Advocate’s Guide to Body Language and Nonverbal Communication,” and “17 Ways to Lose a Winning Argument in Court.” Our publications provide insight into the skills and tactics that must be a part of every lawyer’s arsenal. We are always looking for additional excellent content to publish. If you are interested in having an article published, contact our newsletter chair, Molly Meacham, at mmeacham@babstcalland.com.

Similarly, you will find the committee putting on high quality CLE programs and webinars. Adrian Felix is heading up our programming efforts. We are excited to be cosponsoring a program at the ABA Annual Meeting in August called “Turning the Table on Difficult Witnesses.” At the Section Conference in May, our committee chair will be presenting on the use of social media and electronic evidence at trial.

Next year should be another stellar year for the committee under the leadership of Chris Kreiner and Chair-Elect Adrian Felix. The committee is in the process of developing its strategic plan for the next five years. If you have an interest in helping chart the committee’s future course, join us at the Section Conference at the Loew’s Hollywood Hotel in Los Angeles, California, May 2–5.

Perhaps the most enjoyable membership benefit is found in the committee’s networking and social opportunities. Most trial lawyer organizations primarily cater to the plaintiffs bar or the defense bar. TIPS and this committee have the distinct advantage of being led by trial lawyers of all stripes: plaintiffs lawyers, defense lawyers, insurance company counsel, and government lawyers. This unique opportunity to work with lawyers in diverse practice areas magnifies the learning opportunities. And, it increases the possibility of referrals between members who have grown to know and respect each other through their work in the committee.

The Litigation and Trial Practice Committee is a welcoming home for both new and veteran TIPS members. If you have an interest in issues related to trial and the litigation process, consider joining us at one of our upcoming meetings. We will convene during the ABA Annual Meeting in Chicago, August 2–5, and we will meet in Amelia Island, Florida, at the TIPS Fall Leadership Meeting, October 10–14. Join us and be a part of one of the most interesting and diverse groups of trial lawyers you could hope to find. n

By Rick Morefield

Rick Morefield, chair of the TIPS Litigation and Trial Practice Committee, is a trial lawyer and founding member of Morefield Speicher Bachman, LC, in Overland Park, Kansas. His primary practice focus is representing plaintiffs in catastrophic personal injury, brain injury, and wrongful death litigation. He also handles commercial litigation matters and regularly represents not-for-profits and individuals who need pro bono legal assistance. Morefield is a past editor-in-chief of The Brief (2006–2008) and a current member of the magazine’s editorial board. A former member of the TIPS Council, he is an active member of the Section’s Plaintiff’s Practice and Solo and Small Firm Task Forces. He is also a member of the Revenue Enhancement, Content Management and Member Services, and Technology Committees, as well as TIPS Fellows. Morefield can be reached at r.morefield@msblawkc.com.