Book Review: The View from the First Chair by Martin L. Grayson

In his book “The View from the First Chair: What Every Trial Lawyer Really Needs to Know,” Martin L. Grayson defines a trial as follows–

[N]othing less than a six-dimensional merry-go-round-jigsaw-puzzle-demolition-derby all playing out in your mind while you sit relatively passively at counsel table, trying to concentrate on 12 things at once while listening to witness testimony.

This passage gives you the sense that Grayson knows what he's talking about and is going to tell it to you with a certain amount of wit.

Grayson wants you to think of his book as “a virtual mentor for attorneys.” It's filled with the type of tips you don't get in a typical trial manual. Examples: a chapter titled “Thinking on Your Feet,” a chapter on the proper uses of email, and a chapter on communicating with clients. These chapters are written and organized in a way that invites you to read the book from beginning to end, rather than skipping around from issue to issue.

Other highlights–

  • A how-to for finding the best experts (“most attorneys have no idea how to find well-qualified experts,” says Grayson);
  • Useful tips for settling cases (“settlement is about psychology and rhythm; the numbers are just music in the background”);
  • A technique for dealing with abusive counsel at depositions (“98 percent guaranteed to change the entire tone of the proceedings,” according to Grayson–and I think he's right).

Throughout the book are sidebars containing the author's real-life litigation stories. Although the book is slanted towards defense lawyers, I'd recommend it to any type of litigator who lacks significant trial experience.

[thanks to evan schaeffer via cc]