“It’s integrity. If you don’t have integrity in your thoughts, it’s going to show. You’re going to come across as fake, and nobody wants to be associated with that.”
Victoria Rusk, a mitigation specialist and investigator from Houston, TX, credits the Trial Lawyers College’s In Defense of the Damned program with giving her the tools that enhance her civil case preparation and her strategy for consulting criminal defense attorneys. She helps clients understand what mitigation is and how the discovery and presentation of their background is critical to saving their life.
The TLC method teaches that if the jury perceives that an attorney is disconnected from or embarrassed about their client, the jury could adopt that bias and judge the client harshly. Drawing from this, Rusk feels that assessing the case and witnesses help a lawyer better understand their clients’ background.
When attorneys genuinely empathize with their clients, they can present their client’s mitigation story in a compelling way that helps jurors to overcome the feelings of anger stirred up by the prosecutor. Trial Lawyers College teaches lawyers to identify universal themes to be those many people can relate to, such as parenthood or significant loss.
“As a mitigation specialist, we meet people where they are.”
“It is the idea of just being yourself and connecting and being genuine and not just pretending to be genuine but being actually genuine...see how that actually works.”
This fall, former prosecutor Adam Murray enjoyed training at the Trial Lawyers College intensive five-day course in Shambhala, Colorado. Although he is not yet a TLC graduate, he describes his time at the TLC as a “life-changing experience.” After leaving the seminar, he determined that the tools provided an entirely different perspective that would benefit all aspects of trial preparation, beginning with Voir Dire.
“How can I be empowered to make sure that my client can get their story before the jury so that the right result happens?”
Being able to authentically connect with the jurors from the beginning of the process helps attorneys avoid seeming adversarial. It allows lawyers to work collaboratively with the jury and to practice the law while retaining their humanity.
Murray has since added a psychodrama room onto his office space for helping clients prepare for trial, so they would be better able to live out the critical moment on the stand. As they express their feelings regarding the experience, jurors can identify with the victim and their loss.
“Lawyers get bogged down in minutiae and facts. The facts are important. The facts are the latticework upon which you hang the flesh of your case, and the flesh of your case is going to be the principles, the values, the emotion, the feelings, the betrayal; those types of things are what make a case relatable to a jury.”
This week, Kenny Adair, former district judge and 2007 graduate of the Trial Lawyer College (TLC), attributes his success to TLC. When he left the program, he felt better equipped to discover and understand his clients’ stories and tell them in a way that the jury would embrace. Through the use of reenactments, among other methods, he can discover the backstory and connect personally and emotionally to each case.
Adair tells the essential story during voir dire, during the opening statement, when questioning the clients and witnesses, and during the closing argument. He identifies the hero or would-be hero and the villain, the liable party. He shows the villain’s betrayal and is ready to capitalize on the defense counsel’s trial behavior that compounds the original harm to the client.
“You’ve got to understand who your audience is really is. What are the morals of your jury? Once you understand their morals and whether they’re liberal or conservative, and you tailor your opening statement towards that, you’re well on your way to getting the verdict that you want.”
In this episode of the TLC Podcast, host Rafe Foreman meets with Kentucky-based trial lawyer Frank Mungo to discuss his unique approach to storytelling to resonate with the judge and jury in a variety of criminal cases. Guiding listeners through the details of some of his most successful trials, Frank provides an insightful look at the personal values and political biases that can influence judges’ and jurors’ connections with our clients and the ultimate outcome of a case.
“If the cancer is a wake-up call to spend the rest of my life—however long I have—to live a life with more quality and being more genuine, I’m not thinking that’s too unfair.”
This episode of the TLC Podcast features Laurie Goodman, the beloved executive director of the Trial Lawyers College, who speaks with host Rafe Foreman about her April 2021 diagnosis of metastatic breast cancer. As she shares the insights she’s discovered about herself in the wake of her ongoing health struggles, Laurie offers a critical reminder of the value of accepting one’s life path, surrendering control, and making today the very best it can be.
“We are in a different mindset than our clients are. Even that is a barrier because, at that point, we don’t see the context where our client comes from.”
This week’s TLC podcast features trial lawyer Pat Montes, who offers a thought-provoking look at how language and culture impact a lawyer’s relationships with their clients. Bringing to the table her unique perspective as a bilingual and bicultural attorney, Pat stresses the importance of working with clients in their native language rather than forcing them to struggle to convey their authentic story in English.
As Pat and host Rafe Foreman continue their discussion, they raise a new set of questions: How can a client relate to their lawyer when they come from entirely different backgrounds? And how can a lawyer discover their client’s story when their cultural differences, despite both speaking English, effectively mean they’re speaking different languages?
The answers to these questions and more are explored in-depth in this engaging podcast episode. Listen along as Pat and Rafe provide necessary insight into connecting with a diverse set of clients and ensuring equal justice for all.
“There are people who do bad things, but I’ve never met anybody who I felt was just a bad person.”
Continuing our series on ‘Reconstructing Success,’ California Public Defender Emily Fisher explores the ways that trial lawyers can intentionally improve injustices and inefficiencies in the justice system. As she guides listeners through her blueprint to resolving these systemic issues, Emily provides a thought-provoking starting point for the empathic trial lawyer to fine-tune their advocacy for their clients and bring humanity back into the courtroom.
“When we tell good stories, the listeners engage.”
This week, host Rafe Foreman meets with accomplished civil trial lawyer Scott Glovsky to explore his methods of successfully conveying the emotion behind his clients’ stories to the jury. A passionate advocate for individuals who’ve faced unjust denials by their health insurance companies, Scott delves into the intersection between the struggles of his clients and the motivations of their insurers.
As the episode comes to a close, Rafe and Scott encourage listeners to think about the underlying emotional connection that their story is conveying. Is it adequate? Is it complete? Is it thorough? These are all essential questions a trial lawyer must ask themselves to ensure that they can lead the jury to find justice for their clients.
“There are so many people who have incredible talents that are going to waste because they’ve been excluded. It’s not hard to find if you just open your eyes….and when we see it, we need to use our position of power and privilege in the groups and organizations that we’re leading to elevate that talent and allow them to have the space to shine.”
This week, trial lawyer and legal educator Keeley Blanchard joins Rafe Foreman in an integral discussion on the importance of inclusion, diversity, and representation in the legal profession.
As a trainer of public defenders, Keeley explains how valuable it can be for members of underserved communities to see and be taught by legal leaders who share a key part of their identity, whether that’s their race, disability, gender, or sexual orientation. However, Keeley reminds listeners of the barriers that currently limit that from happening at the frequency that it should, prompting her to explore the solutions to this pressing issue.
As Rafe and Keeley dissect this issue from the perspective of their own marginalized identities as well as their points of privilege, they encourage legal professionals and leaders to identify the biases they have within themselves and to do the work to overcome them in order to provide a safe and welcoming space for all.
John Sloan hosts the TLC Podcast this week to interview Rafe Foreman and partner attorney Susan Hutchison on the incredible verdict the two trial lawyers won in a groundbreaking and unconventional gender discrimination case.
Listen along as Rafe and Susan describe how they successfully conveyed their 72-year-old client’s story to the jury after a false sexual assault accusation led to him losing his 20-year job with an HVAC company. In a compelling episode led by a dynamic group of voices that TLC students have come to know and love over the years, John leads Rafe and Susan as they provide a powerful testament to the efficacy of the psychodramatic methods and the value of truly reaching one’s client to discover the winning story.
“Everything I need to know I learned in psychodrama. I remind myself to listen with my heart, tune into the emotions -- not just the words -- be open, be honest, and be kind because we have more in common than we’ll ever know...and to be fearless because no matter how alone we’re feeling, we are never alone and our TLC group -- every single one of them -- will be there to help you when you’re going through a problem.”
This week, host Rafe Foreman is joined by Connie Taylor Henderson, who practices law with her husband and her son in Vancouver, Washington. Continuing our current podcast series titled “Restructuring Success,” Connie backpacks off of the upcoming Warrior Magazine theme with an engaging dive into why TLC is worth fighting for.
By sharing the impact that TLC has had on her life both personally and professionally and reflecting on TLC’s past, present, and future in these turbulent yet promising times, Connie’s words are sure to resonate with all who have been touched by the TLC methods.
“Do something to make someone else’s day better. If we all do that, every day, we’ll change the world.”
This week, Washington attorney Mark Wagner continues our ‘Restructuring Success’ series with a refreshing take on the true meaning of success. Channeling the core message of the Trial Lawyers College, Mark argues that success is all in how we treat others. Through engaging storytelling and a matter-of-fact method of expression, Mark reminds listeners of the humanity in all of us and that we are more alike than we are different.
“Success is really subjective, and I think that’s okay. The only thing that I need to do to live truthfully is to define the things that are important to me and let the rest burn. What’s scarier -- disappointing people or thinking, at the end of the day, what kind of life could I have had if I had just been a little bit braver?”
This week, Ilinois criminal defense attorney Cambry McNabb joins host Rafe Foreman to explore the true meaning of success. As a young lawyer who attended the Trial Lawyers College early in her career, Cambry has had her fair share of successes, but not all of those successes had perfect outcomes. Discussing the most noteworthy trials and tribulations of her legal practice, Cambry treats listeners to a thought-provoking dive into what it means to win or lose a case.
“The storytelling potential in this case was off the charts because of the lengths the defense was going to go to to avoid the truth.”
In this podcast, Eric Fong joins host Rafe Foreman to share, in captivating detail, the extraordinary story of how he and his client defied all odds to obtain a $91 million verdict in a recent personal injury trial.
The case began when Eric’s client suffered a significant, life-altering brain injury during a late-night convenience store robbery that arose from inadequate security. Incredibly moved by his client’s struggles and humanity, Eric was faced with the responsibility to convey those same feelings to the jury.
Now recalling those moments for Rafe and his listeners, Eric discusses the astronomical challenges he and his client encountered throughout the trial, from COVID restrictions to juror predispositions, and the techniques they used to overcome them. Above all, Eric explores how he got the jury to not only hate the defendant but to love his client exactly as he did.
“Always be willing to be flexible -- don’t get so married to your methodologies that you can’t change those, too. It is in preparation and hard work but it’s also in willing to be open to the ideas of others.”
This week, Todd Kelly of Austin, Texas, joins host Rafe Foreman to kick off our new podcast series titled ‘Reconstructing Success’ with an engaging overview of the importance of preparation and planning as a trial lawyer, particularly in the scope of pretrial. In discussing the strategies applied to some of his most recent trials, Todd explores the ideal balance between flexibility and consistency and the value of varying one’s approach to win justice for their clients.
“For me, getting this opportunity with this scholarship, the biggest thing is spreading the message to go and get the vaccine.”
On this week’s podcast, high school freshman Jack Lucchesi and his mother, Bridget Lucchesi, join host Rafe Foreman. Jack is one of the first ten winners selected in New York State's College Scholarship raffle for vaccinated teens, and his mom Bridget is a clinical mental health therapist who has deep Trial Lawyers College connections. In addition to knowing Rafe since childhood, Bridget joined TLC for the Death Penalty seminar in 2010, and she studied with Zerka Moreno, wife of Jacob Levy Moreno, the inventor of psychodrama!
Rafe, Jack, and Bridget cover a variety of COVID-19-related topics during their conversation including Jack’s scholarship raffle win, how to combat and identify misinformation, how to deal with grief throughout the pandemic, and much more.
“I decided that I should do something I don’t normally do, and that’s reverse roles with a defense attorney and try to figure out where they’re coming from and how their lives have changed. So, I was trying to get personally involved with defense attorneys, not just in the case but in their actual lives...”
On this week’s podcast, Conroe, TX trial attorney and TLC faculty member Paula Estefan joins host Rafe Foreman to discuss how she works with opposing counsel, the benefits of doing so, and how her approach to opposing counsel has changed over time. Through their conversation, Paula and Rafe also touch on the power of silence and listening, what endures about TLC’s methods, and the deep connections formed at the Trial Lawyers College.
“The plaintiff’s practice can be very lonely. I think that loneliness has been a bit amplified by being inside, cooped up, and not able to communicate and build relationships like we were meant to. The pandemic has caused an amplification of those relationships gone silent.”
On this week’s podcast, Kansas City trial attorney Brian McCallister joins host Rafe Foreman to discuss the ways that the lingering effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and other events of the past year will impact the practice of law in the future. As he guides listeners through the cases that have been impacted by this new era in his own practice of trial law and those of his colleagues, Brian provides a stark illustration of the fragility of the jury trial and the importance of human connection.
“Judges are just like us -- they’re egocentric, they think with their own minds, they speak with their own heart, and they bring a lifetime of experiences as a human and as a previous lawyer to the bench.”
This riveting podcast features former Oklahoma judge Kenny Adair, now a criminal and civil trial lawyer, who gives his unique perspective on the fears and vulnerabilities of the more challenging judges encountered by trial lawyers. Sharing invaluable insight into the human side of the men and women behind the bench, Kenny presents listeners with a refreshing take on the use of psychodrama to connect with the judge and win justice for their clients.
“I’m one of those types of people that wants to be all things all the time, and what I’m learning is you can’t be all things all the time. It’s just not possible. That’s how you wind up burned out and really of no use to anybody.”
Continuing our theme of ‘Managing in Tough Times’ is Kahlie Hoffman, a Kansas City-based personal injury trial lawyer who’s raising two young boys behind the scenes. Despite the difficulties her busy life has handed her, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic, Kahlie believes that each role she plays strengthens her abilities in the other. Reflecting on the challenges and triumphs she has faced while managing both full-time roles, Kahlie provides invaluable insight into the value of self-care, setting realistic boundaries for oneself, and communicating those boundaries to others.
“There are some people who have not had an opportunity to represent a gay client or a member of a minority group, and there may be some biases there. Before proper representation can be done, I think that a person needs to sit with themselves and try to overcome those biases or really truthfully address them and see if they’re going to play into the case.”
This week’s podcast features Colorado attorney Sean Brown, who engages in a captivating conversation with host Rafe Foreman about navigating the touchy topic of sexuality when representing an LGBTQ client. Discussing the potential biases of judges, jury members, and even themselves as trial lawyers, Sean provides a vital perspective for attorneys to successfully uphold the rights of members of marginalized groups.
“I want widows to know that once they have loved someone so deeply and been loved, it will come again. Nobody should live without love, and they don’t have to.”
This podcast features California attorney Samantha Berryessa, who continues our ‘Managing in Tough Times’ series with a moving account of her experience navigating grief before and after the 2019 death of her husband, attorney Dax Cowart.
A wrongful death lawyer by practice, Samantha gracefully highlights the parallels between her personal experience with grief and her perception of the grief of her widowed clients. Offering a unique glimpse into the inner world of a newly widowed woman, Samantha’s riveting testimony is essential listening for any trial lawyer who represents the bereaved.
“We need to communicate with our eyes more, whether it’s to your spouse or the jury on voir dire or to your client.”
In this week’s episode of the TLC podcast, civil lawyer Chandler Loupe joins host Rafe Foreman in a contentious discussion around the unique challenges faced by trial lawyers during the COVID-19 pandemic. Sharing his experience as a trial attorney in one of the few regions that kept its courtroom doors open through 2020, Chandler provides a timely reminder of the value of looking into people’s eyes.
“In order for me to do a trial right now, I need to prepare extra-special. It’s sort of like an extended warm-up to get my head in the right spot.”
This week’s podcast features Jason Savela, a criminal defense lawyer with more than two decades of experience trying cases to juries in Colorado. Continuing our theme of “Managing in Tough Times,” Jason shares the details of some of his most riveting cases, guiding listeners through the hardships and triumphs that he has shared with his clients.
As a TLC-trained trial lawyer, Jason stays true to the psychodramatic methods, sharing the strategies he used to discover his clients’ stories and tell them authentically to the jury. Bringing the discussion back to the tough times we’re collectively facing, Jason reminds listeners of the importance of using demonstrative evidence now more than ever.
“I didn’t want anyone to see me as I really am. I thought they would reject me. That’s why, in the beginning, I worked so hard to walk perfectly -- I didn’t want anyone to see my weakness. But it was only when I was willing to let people inside and to see that is when I began to be comfortable with it as well.”
Continuing our ‘Managing in Tough Times’ series is Bret Merkle, a Sioux Falls, South Dakota, personal injury attorney whose life was turned upside down at the age of 21 after he sustained serious injuries in a motorcycle accident. Suddenly facing a life with chronic pain and loss of bodily function, Bret slowly discovered sources of joy and fulfillment that would keep him moving forward.
While he learned to push through his hardships to accomplish an impressive legal career, Bret continued to struggle with being open about his physical struggles due to a fear of rejection. As Bret finally began to appreciate the value of living authentically and creating bonds as his true, vulnerable, and imperfect self, he built powerful relationships and unmatched success in his career as a trial lawyer. Above all, he’s learned to face his fears in everything he does -- whether it involves his body or his next trial.