Many times lawyers will attempt to discourage you from having a jury trial. Why is that? Perhaps he or she is looking out for your best interests because a jury trial would be detrimental to your case. However, what seems to be more common is that the lawyer in question is not comfortable trying a jury trial. In fact, most lawyers in Texas have actually never tried a jury trial to a verdict.
So, how are you supposed to know when your attorney is merely discouraging you from having a trial by jury due to their lack of experience? Well, you can start by asking! A simple question to your lawyer may do the trick: how many jury trials have you tried to a verdict in the last five years? You'll likely be surprised by the answer. This article will describe 5 reasons that lawyers do not like trying family jury trials.
Reason #1: The Lawyer Does Not Have the Time
Some lawyers have some ability when trying a trial by jury. However, those skills are useless to you if that lawyer does not have the time needed to prepare the case for court. Let's face it: a trial by jury is arguably the most difficult and complex type of proceeding. That means that it will take an ample amount of time for you and your lawyer to prepare.
Your lawyer will need to conduct voire dire (i.e. jury selection), interview and prepare witnesses, review discovery, select exhibits for trial, prepare an opening and closing statement, the list goes on. The test is not how many clients your lawyer has. The real test is whether or not that lawyer has the adequate staff and time to dedicate to adequately preparing for your final hearing in which a jury of your peers will make some important decisions. If your lawyer won't have the time to truly prepare you and your case for the hearing, you should be sure to select an attorney with the time.
Reason #2: The Lawyer Lacks the Resources
Oftentimes, lawyers lack resources to accomplish proper preparation for court. Preparing for trial will take the use of some of the lawyer's resources. For adequate trial preparation, your lawyer will also need to have staff that can help do tedious tasks such as reviewing discovery for deficiencies, identifying and/or subpoenaing witnesses, and even reaching out to you in case more information or documentation is needed from you.
Your lawyer should also have the right contacts. In complicated cases, it is quite common to work very closely with experts. There could be child psychologists or CPAs that your lawyer will need to have positive prior working relationships with. This will help out when it is time for that expert to provide testimony.
Reason #3: The Lawyer Lacks Experience
This seems to be the most common reason that Texas family lawyers do not like trying jury trials: they don't know what they are doing. Since a majority of all cases settle without ever making it to trial, it is understandable that a vast majority of attorneys have never tried a Texas family trial by jury. Many lawyers have never had to do voire dire (the process of selection, or more accurately, de-selecting a jury), give an opening and closing statement, work with experts, argue pre-trial motions, etc.
Our firm is the opposite. We have consulted on, given courses on, and tried cases with jury trials all over Texas. I bet that Walters Gilbreath, PLLC has tried more of these kinds of cases than any other firm that you could select. Just think, your family law case is perhaps one of the most important things in your life right now. You cannot afford mediocrity. Would you go to any doctor? Brain surgeon? I bet that you wouldn't. Instead, you'd likely make sure that your doctor had experience and specialty in those areas. Treat finding the best lawyer the same way.
Reason #4: The Lawyer Doesn't Think that You Can Win
Some attorneys will be pretty nervous about trying a family jury trial because of a lack of confidence in either you, themselves, or both. Perhaps your lawyer does not think that you would do well in front of a jury. If this is the case, it is their duty to prepare you. Perhaps your lawyer does not think that you can win because he or she is intimidated by the opposing lawyer. This is common for lawyers that lack experience, as discussed above. If the other lawyer has experience then it is likely to make your own lawyer very nervous about the outcome of your case.
Be sure to select an attorney with confidence in you, the merits of your case, as well as themselves. Otherwise, you risk either losing out on your opportunity for a jury to decide or you miss out on winning a case that should have gone your way. At Walters Gilbreath, PLLC, we are confident in our abilities because of our connections, compassion, dedication, and experience. We try to settle all cases without going to a judge or a jury, but when the time comes to try a case, nobody will be more prepared than us.
Reason #5: Your Lawyer is Not Comfortable Speaking in Front of a Room full of People
Can anyone say stage fright? Believe it or not, some lawyers are not great at public speaking. Some get nervous when speaking in front of a large number of people. Since jury trials will have many people attend the hearing and hear testimony, there will be a vast amount of people present. The jury will be there, the judge, the other lawyer, your ex-spouse or ex-paramour, witnesses, etc. so it is common for the courtroom to be quite full during a family trial by jury. Just because your lawyer went to law school does not mean that he or she is comfortable or confident when speaking in front of a large group of people. You need a lawyer that is poised, confident, and one that won't break a sweat when presenting to the Court.
After reviewing some of the most common reasons that lawyers dislike jury trials, you can start to narrow down your search for the right attorney to help you through your family law case. Choose wisely; your future is likely to depend on it.