It’s 4:30 am the first morning of trial when my alarm kicks on to a song from the Rocky 4 soundtrack. I’m not tired. I’m stoked. I pop out of bed and savor every drop of that half cup of coffee I drink as I immediately review my rough power point for my closing argument. There will be no time to think about taking a leak during trial. Close won’t likely be until the next day, but I want to make sure my theme is re-engaged in my head after all the preparation I performed the past six hundred and fifty days of representing my injured client. Then it’s a quick voir dire review, rehearsed outside so I don’t wake up the kids. Just highlights: burden of proof, frivolous suits and most importantly, not sounding like a trial lawyer. Then I hop in the shower and practice my opening . . . again. It’s my 37th version and my blood is flowing in anticipation for when I do it for real, on what will be 68th time.
As I put on my “Day One Suit”, a cheap light gray JC Penny wonder that still fits me like a glove that my proud maw-maw found for me in a dumpster when I became a big-city Cleveland lawyer in 2004, I think about my client. She lives down the road from me, in my new home in Appalachia. A hard worker who is genuinely in pain daily. A nice lady who can’t get around like she used to. With her torn meniscus, shoulder bursitis and depression, she will also be getting dressed in just a matter of hours when she wakes ups from the ever-so-uncomfortable place in bed. As I place my leg through my worn suit pants, I think about how her car accident changed her life forever. And I again get pissed and my thoughts get me side-tracked.
This is B.S.. A $21,000.00 offer on over $47,000.00 in medical bills, at least two permanent injuries, and they have no witnesses lined up for their defense. My expert is coming live. Is this a joke? Does the defense attorney or the insurance company really doubt my abilities that much? What a slap in the face. Did I miss something? Do they know something I don’t know? They are doing this to my lady so they can save a buck so they put more money into those stupid commercials they have on television.
Get me in that courtroom!
But, then again, there are some bad things in the records and this is not a slam dunk. My lady didn’t get any therapy and chooses not to get surgery. Most of her bills were written off and that $47,000.00 is going to go back to the jury with them knowing that about $41,000.00 was written off. How can I ask for $100,000.00 if it looks like she doesn’t want to get better? How is it going to look that she applied for SSI shortly before her accident? I lost my last civil trial in this county that everyone says is very conservative. Do I even know what I’m doing? Should I have gotten a different expert? Damn it, is my theme too harsh on the defendant? Am I more cut out for another profession where there is not so much stress?
Or, maybe the defense attorney will be showing up for full authority to offer the policy limits of $50,000.00 of the insurance. Then I can maybe relax and catch up with nagging business items around the office and the newest Game of Thrones episode I’ve been putting off. But my opponent has been practicing law since before I was born. He is a super-cool guy who recently served as president of the top defense attorney group in the state. He knows what he’s doing and maybe he just wants to see if I’d get scared and fold. Maybe I’ll call him and see if I can get a better offer . . . .
Damn it, focus, Jeremy.
Your client trusts you.
Your client has no one else to turn to.
Your client needs you to do what you were trained to do.
Her future depends on what you do in the next thirty to thirty-four hours of your life . . . .
Enter a short prayer and then a blasting of a series of Iron Maiden and Judas Priest songs on the fifteen-minute drive in to the office. My blood pumps as I appreciate the significance of what is going to occur that day. I will be standing up for the little guy against corporate greed. I will be defending her 7th Amendment right to a jury trial. I will be staying strong in the face of a low-ball offer I might have been able to persuade my client to take. I will be advocating for a safer community.
Jeremy m-f’n Burn-side is not going to be pushed around today!
It’s 6:00 am when I get out my car and open the front door of the former Baptist church I bought and renovated into my legal practice field. The sun is beginning to come out. The judge wants us there at 8:30 am so I have plenty of time to practice kicking ass. As the natural light begins to peak through the windows of my mock courtroom, which was once the old worship area, the fear is gone. The doubts are gone. The anger is gone. All that remains is focus.
I win trials.
I have a good case.
I am prepared.
Let’s do this.
I show up in the courtroom, hug my client, shake the hand of the defense lawyer, and do the job that the Good Lord destined for me to do.