Being the Lawyer the World Needs: How to Keep Growing Professionally and Up Your Trial Skills

A lawyer questioning a witness in front of the judge in a courtroom.

“If we focus our energies on sharing ideas, finding solutions, and using what is right with America to remedy what is wrong with it, we can make a difference. Our nation needs bridges, and bridges are built by those who look to the future and dedicate themselves to helping others.”

I think often about that quote from Justice Sandra Day O’Connor’s 2004 commencement speech at Stanford University.

Since becoming a lawyer, have you ever wondered why you chose this career path? Have you ever wondered if you were cut out for the immense pressures that our profession seems to effortlessly lay upon our shoulders? I mean, first comes the LSAT, then comes law school, then comes trying to figure out how to actually practice law (in a baby carriage)! And for those of us trudging through trial practice, the learning, growing, memorizing—all in an effort to really make a difference in this world—never really seem to stop.

We have to learn and continuously study how to be the best advocate our clients need and deserve. With that comes the responsibility to actively assess ourselves and our abilities, to be humble in recognizing that there is likely always room for improvement. The most seasoned attorney and the most novel attorney probably have more in common than one might think: respect for the law, respect for the judicial process, and respect for those needing legal help. For an attorney to succeed in their career endeavor, they must be willing to learn from others, adapt, and remember why they chose this profession in the first place.

Just as Justice O’Connor has said, we can make a difference. We, as attorneys, are built to make a difference. We are the bridge someone can cross from being stuck to receiving help and guidance. But to be the difference this world needs, trial attorneys need to continuously polish their trial skills, understand their professional and moral duties, and tap into their talents.

The best news about this is we are not in it alone! We can learn from each other. Especially during the pandemic, trial attorneys are facing new challenges and their typical trial processes or strategies have been shaken and upset. That is why the WSBA created the Trial Advocacy Program to provide a two-day intensive trial skills training for new or young lawyers, as well as seasoned lawyers who want to keep their trial skills well-honed.

This seminar is appropriate for attorneys working in either the criminal or civil arena with little or no trial experience. Topics to be covered include voir dire, opening statements, direct/cross examinations, presenting evidence, objections and motions, trial ethics, and closing arguments. Speakers—ranging from judges to professors to practicing attorneys—will provide insights from a wide range of experiences and share their vast knowledge for each topic.

For those of us who need a gentle reminder that you can do what you have set out to do in this world (a reminder that we serve the larger interest of impartial justice) or for those of us who simply want to learn more about trial practice, this continuing legal education seminar is a remarkable opportunity to encourage yourself to be the bridge and be the difference the world needs us to be.

To quote once more from Justice O’Connor:

“Whether acting in the legal, governmental, or private realm, one concerned and dedicated person can meaningfully affect what some consider an uncaring world. So give freely of yourself always to your family, your friends, your community, and your country. The world will pay you back many times over.”