News

What It Means to be a Defense Attorney

26 Aug 2020 2:08 PM | Jennifer Edwards (Administrator)

By Allen Smith, NCADA President

NCADA and President Allen Smith are pleased to introduce a series of columns to be included in The Resource over the next year on “What it means to be a defense attorney.”  

We are very fortunate that some of the recent winners of the Elster Award and Award for Excellence in Trial Advocacy graciously agreed to share their impressions over the remainder of the 2020-21 NCADA a year.

In writing the first column on the subject, I feel like a Double-A baseball player batting leadoff in a Major League Baseball All-Star Game.  (Not knowing whether we will have a college football season, and I sure hope that we do, I am reticent to use a football analogy like kick-off.)   


When I talk to most defense lawyers, I hear a universal theme: there is no feeling better in the profession than winning a trial. I share that sentiment and have been fortunate enough to experience the so-called “thrill of victory” many times.  It is hard to beat the positive reinforcement of receiving compliments from several jurors after a trial. However, this is an important but small part of being a defense attorney.

As I have grown older (but not yet become “old“ – that will always be 10  years away), I recognize that being a complete defense attorney is much more than winning trials. Having the tools and confidence to win trials is important. These skills are valuable in helping you perform the most important role of a defense attorney: recognizing the best manner to resolve the client’s case and achieving it.  Sometimes, the best resolution is through a trial, and we all look forward to those cases.  However, statistics show trials are a rarity.  In some cases, the best resolution is settling the case before it goes into litigation.  Some of my most grateful clients are from cases that settled before the opposing party filed a lawsuit.  These clients viewed the pre-litigation resolution as a home run.  For the majority of cases we have, the best resolution involves gathering more facts or evidence through the litigation process, determining the value of the case, and settling.  The key is to make sure the attorney and client are on the same page. 

The “five tool“ (we do have a baseball analogy theme going!) defense attorney develops the knowledge and skill to recognize the best way to resolve the case; the confidence to make recommendations and execute a litigation plan; and the temperament to work with the clients, the opposing attorneys, and the courts to achieve the goal.  Developing your litigation skills does not occur over night.  Doing so requires patience, dedication, and a long-term plan.  I doubt that any part of this column is eye-opening to my fellow defense attorneys regardless of years of practice.      

I hope that each of you takes the time to read the columns from our exceptional defense attorneys in the upcoming issues of The Resource. Regardless of your years of practice, you are bound to pick up some valuable information.  Please also be sure to thank these columnists; we are quite fortunate they are willing to share their wisdom.


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