This month’s Texas Bar Journal has a very good article about the lack of jury trial experience of the majority of lawyers. See Honesty is the Best Policy: it’s time to disclose lack of jury trial experience, by Tracy McCormack and Christopher Bodnar.
The statistics are summarized here:
- Litigators with 5 years experience – only 30% had tried even one case to a jury
- With 10 yrs experience – 30% had still never tried a case to a jury
- The majority of litigators hadn’t tried a case to a jury until they had been practicing for 7 years
Why does this matter? “The strength of a litigator’s bargaining position is at least partially a function of his or her willingness to try the case if settlement negotiations break down.”
The article is more focused on civil litigation, but it applies in criminal law too. If a prosecutor knows that a lawyer will try a case, and has the experience to do a competent job, he will usually make a better plea offer. I have even seen cases where the State dismissed a case when it got down to trial time.
The authors argue that lawyers should disclose to potential clients their experience, or lack thereof, in trying cases. Clients shouldn’t be shy to ask if the information isn’t volunteered.
One way to vet a lawyer is to see if he or she is board certified. I am, in three different areas – Civil Trial Law, Personal Injury Trial Law, and Criminal Law. To get those certifications a lawyer must have significant jury trial experience, verified by the judges and opposing lawyers.
Think of it this way - if you needed surgery, would you want your doctor's first patient?