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August 31, 2018 Book Review

How to Succeed as a Trial Lawyer, Second Edition, By Stewart Edelstein

Reviewed by Molly E. Meacham

The second edition of How to Succeed as a Trial Lawyer by seasoned trial counsel Stewart Edelstein is aimed at law students or litigators in the early stages of their career who are seeking practical advice on both the written and unwritten rules of trial practice. In this book, Edelstein harnesses his considerable trial experience gained over 40 years of practice, combining that with his decades of teaching civil litigation skills at Yale Law School and presenting CLE seminars. The result is a text that delivers on the title’s lofty promise. Any less-experienced attorney craving a relatable and readable reference manual should consume this cover-to-cover and keep it close at hand for later reference. Edelstein has created a crisp and practical guide that seeks to help attorneys become the mythological gryphon, assembling the best qualities of different animals (an eagle eye, dogged determination, ferreting out the truth) into a successful trial lawyer.

Readers who devoured the first edition, published in 2013, should consider updating to this second edition. As the author notes, the new edition is “updated, reorganized, and expanded” to address the recent significant revisions to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and the American Arbitration Association Rules for Commercial Disputes. In addition, Edelstein has added new sections or expanded existing sections on e-discovery, negotiation techniques, persuasive communications, work efficiency, and managing stress.

The author condenses trial practice into seven chapters, and then divides each chapter into intuitive subtopics, answering the most common questions new awyers have for each. Client relationships are covered in detail in the first chapter, “Dealing with Clients,” as the author takes his readers from initial contact with a prospective client through formalizing and beginning the representation, and finally through strategies for delivering bad news or dealing with difficult clients. Chapter two walks through the unwritten rules of “Dealing with Others in Your Professional Life,” demystifying how to work and communicate with colleagues, witnesses, opposing counsel, judges, and others.

“Writing” in chapter three provides suggestions both technical and stylistic, such as writing to your audience, managing emails, and drafting pleadings and appellate briefs. Questions and strategies regarding “Discovery” are addressed by chapter four, including a must-read section for any new attorney preparing to take or defend their first deposition. Chapter five covers “Alternative Dispute Resolution” and its relationship to trial strategy, as well as negotiating techniques. For those needing a reference on “Court Appearances,” chapter six explains the mechanics of how to prepare for an appearance in addition to proposing big-picture strategies to implement for presenting an effective case.

Although chapter seven, “Succeeding in Your Practice and in Your Life,” is the least technical, it covers what may be the most vital aspects of establishing and maintaining a career as a trial attorney. Edelstein summarizes the lessons on ethics, marketing, networking, and cultivating relationships he has learned through personal experience and decades of observing other trial attorneys. In addition, the final section of this chapter on “Coping with Stress” frankly addresses the physical, mental, and emotional harms that can result from the stress inherent in trial practice. The author zeroes in on strategies to achieve “holistic success,” meaning achieving professional goals while also balancing other aspects of life. He provides practical techniques applicable to attorneys in any phase of their career on self-care, creating a personal and professional support system, and working smarter.

Beyond its clear value to early-career trial attorneys, How to Succeed as a Trial Lawyer, Second Edition also offers experienced attorneys a quick reference to improve their existing practices. This reference is an enjoyable and fast read that balances practice and procedure with the author’s insights, and offers fresh perspectives and strategies of value to every trial attorney.

To order How to Succeed as a Trial Lawyer, Second Edition, go to or call 1-800-285-2221.

Regular price: $149.95; TIPS Member price: $119.95.

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

Reviewed by Molly E. Meacham

Molly E. Meacham is a shareholder and cochair of the Litigation Group of Babst, Calland, Clements and Zomnir, P.C., in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. She is a member of the TortSource editorial board and may be reached at [email protected].