chevron-down Created with Sketch Beta.
June 22, 2022 PROFILE

Litigation and Trial Practice Committee

John P. Browning

Litigation and Trial Practice (LTP) stands firm as the American Bar Association (ABA) Tort Trial and Insurance Practice Section (TIPS) committee most committed to representing the day-to-day “workhorse” lawyers who act as advocates in various courts and tribunals across the country. The committee’s role is to examine techniques, tactics, stratagems, and methods used at all stages of litigation, from initial pleadings through post-judgment motions, including courtroom ethics, conduct, demeanor, and decorum. Members of this committee are tasked with asking critical questions about how best to deliver current-event news and professional enhancement at CLEs, business meetings, and conferences and high-level content to TIPS publications.

The past two years have been most difficult for those of us who earn a living litigating cases. Litigants seeking redress from disputes have suffered beyond comprehension. Plaintiffs, adverse insurers, and companies defending against various and sundry claims have become exhausted by the constant start-and-go world we have lived in. It was supposed to be just a few days to “stop the spread,” but then it turned into months and now years. While we thought we would eventually crawl out from behind the “Zoom curtain,” some courtrooms remain closed, while others have been thrust wide open. Most lawyers I talked to are dealing with a flood of case backlogs that are almost too much to manage. The trouble with this is obvious, including double-booked court deadlines and more time away from family getting stale cases ready for trial.

Couple these concerns with the uncertainty and stress of current global events, the rise of social justice movements changing the practice before our eyes, and political angst coming from both the left and the right. These have certainly been trying times for even those of us whose job it is to endure the stresses of trials. Our profession is facing new dilemmas not yet understood, which has made this committee that much more relevant in how we can seek to better the profession.

To continue to stand up as advocates, we need people willing to share a small part of their practice by joining us on this committee. Whether you can share what the practice of law is like from the perspective of a small-town solo practitioner, a large law firm partner, a judge, an arbitrator, or a member of a law firm management committee (who does not even need to be a lawyer), it is important that we hear all voices.

A way this committee can do that is to give true-blue practitioners forums in which to share their craft. One such example is the upcoming August ABA Anatomy of a Trial, a four-part practical skills CLE webinar where our committee will be responsible for providing instruction and best practices on direct examination, cross-examination, and expert witnesses. We are also planning to jointly present a webinar program on June 3 (at 4:00 p.m. EST) entitled “Remote Trial Work: Tales from the Digital Trenches.” We anticipate that the topics will cover, among other things: best practices for preparing witnesses appearing remotely, addressing technological issues such as poor connectivity, effectively displaying documents virtually, and remote coordination with the courts and clerks. Of course, joining us for TIPS business meetings (and the social hours to follow) is a great way to find comradery with your colleagues. Please come and join us!

Last, I am reminded in these times of discord and trial of the words of Abraham Lincoln, who, a consummate trial lawyer himself, knew that it is the ultimate goal of any lawyer to dissuade others from entering into the fray of discord in the first place. He famously said, “Discourage litigation. Persuade your neighbors to compromise whenever you can. Point out to them how the nominal winner is often a real loser—in fees, expenses, and waste of time. As a peacemaker the lawyer has a superior opportunity of being a good man. There will still be business enough.” I can think of no better advice as we can, and should, be advocates for peace and unity during these changing times.

The material in all ABA publications is copyrighted and may be reprinted by permission only. Request reprint permission here.

John P. Browning

Burr & Forman LLP

John P. Browning is a partner in the Mobile, Alabama, office of Burr & Forman LLP. He handles general defense litigation focusing on complex personal injury, mass torts, large commercial losses, transportation, and logistics. He is chair of the TIPS Litigation and Trial Practice Committee.