How did you hear about TLC?
I went to a training session in Colorado and Josh Karton was there. I watched him transform the most awkward looking person in the room. He did not go after the people who looked ready. He just picked out the one that looked like he was the most scared and transformed him into this most beautiful thing I had ever seen. I wanted some of that. It was really nice to get a taste of it from Josh, if you will. I felt like a better person after I got out of that program, having that one week with him maybe I had a total of 15-20 or 30 minutes with him that whole week. It was so transformative that I was, well, I want some of that. That was enough for me to make me apply for TLC.
What keeps you coming back to TLC’s Grad programs after attending the 3-week College?
When I went to the first Grad program after graduating from the 3-week College, I had had some great success in trial after the College. I had come back to my office and right away I won a bunch of cases and I felt powerful. I began wondering if after the 3 week program, I had it all figured out – “is there more?” I didn’t know. I thought that I could tweak some of my skills, I could get a little better at some of my oral arguments, I could get a little better at cross-examination. I first went to Grad 1, and man did I have a terrible experience the first couple of days. For whatever reason, it just seemed like chaos. Some people needed psychodrama, some people wanted trial skills, some people were good about being given their commentary back, some people weren’t. My frustration level was really going up. Then I felt like a faculty member was looking right at me – he said “Find what you can do to be helpful”. I quit trying to interject myself and I started listening. That was the moment that I learned to listen. It was one of those gigantic doors I walked through. I said “WOW! There is more to learn. There is a lot of more to learn.”
Then last year I went to TLC’s Death Penalty course and TLC Faculty member Cindy Short just blew my mind along with Exonoree Darryl Burton who is now a frequent Special Guest at the College. I watched Cindy doing her work. She showed these videos that related to this horrible multiple dead body death penalty case out of Texas that she did. The thing with Cindy is that she smiles. There is a tremendous power in smiling, even when what you are talking about is horrible. It is not an emotional incongruence or anything. She showed me the beauty of a smile. I tapped into some sort of spirituality in my body that was hungry for something and I got that fed there. And then I have to think in terms of what the basic Trial Lawyers College experience has given me: I paint – I do art every day now. I give back to myself. I have had a big show in Jackson. I make art when I am at the Trial Lawyers College and I think about what I do in the court room as art.
How has attending the Trial Lawyers College impacted your work?
It is so much easier for me now. For me, it is not about drawing up long details or trapping cross-examinations. It is about listening to what is going on in the courtroom and dealing with that and not being led anywhere. This is where a grad program comes in and sort of whacks me on the head. I’m just going to lay out an exercise & show you how it worked:
Maren said, “I want you to think about a moment in your life where things changed” and she gave us a couple of minutes to think about that and write down some ideas. It was a one sentence, headline version of our story, which is a TLC thing. She had us pair up and we each told that story to our partners. She gave us three minutes to tell the story and then there was two minutes of critique and feedback and then we switched. It was a total of 10 minutes. They give me some feedback. Then we have the time to wait, then we re-circle up. Now we are going to tell it a third time. It is better than the second time and it is better than the first time for sure. It is better than anytime I have told this story of my life! She gave me some feedback on how to make it better, not a whole lot- just a little bit. When I told the story a fourth time in front of everyone in the big barn, it was the best one of all. Story-telling is what I do in a courtroom — telling the stories of my clients so that the juries can understand what they have experienced and what really happened. I can’t get good enough at this skill — but I can keep trying!
That’s amazing! Do you think you could tell a story that well spontaneously?
TLC has taught me to be spontaneous. Now, I have the skill set, tools to practice & make it even better. I work to create that spontaneity and keep it.
We did these three minute openings on criminal cases on the following night. I did not do one but I watched my colleagues do it. I watched a fellow student give this three minute opening on a murder charge and at the end of it, I was ready to get up and help her. You know what I mean? I wanted to fight for her, and I wanted to fight for her client. She did it in three minutes. Who would want to give a three minute closing? Maybe I do. Maybe I want to tell a three minute or a four minute story – I would give myself an extra minute. There is something about that tightness, the way that she told that story still connects.
That’s incredible. Does everyone find connection like that?
I don’t know what other people are going to find when they get there. I heard people tell me this was the best thing they had ever done in their lives and they have been to lot of CLEs! I want to think that part of it was me. I was there too. I love connecting with old friends and I have that camaraderie from that and then I have got the friends that I met at another Grad program a couple years ago. I definitely have some friends that I met at the 3-week College. I have now gotten to be with some of these people two or three times at different TLC courses over the years. When I left the ranch this time, I wasn’t quite so sad because I knew I would be back, and I would be able to connect again with my colleagues and friends in this profession. I just had this wonderful sense of community.
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