“A big takeaway for me after my first Trial Lawyers College Seminar was how I learned to create a ‘tribe’ with the jury, with me as their leader. The faculty used this terminology – ‘Make the jury part of your tribe’, because we’re all part of the same tribe; the defense, the people at the table, the entire court. Even though you can’t speak with the jurors directly, you can develop a rapport or an affiliation with them that lasts throughout the trial.” – Paul Barr, TLC Voir Dire CA Regional Seminar Student
Paul Barr is a personal injury attorney from Buffalo, New York. He attended his first Trial Lawyers College Regional Seminar in Huntington Beach, California on Voir Dire in March 2018. The course was a 3-day regional; one day of psychodrama, and one & half days of trial skills with TLC Faculty. Paul was encouraged to attend by Stephen Boyd, who has attended several TLC courses and who was just accepted for TLC’s 3-Week July College this year in which there are still spaces available to apply to the 3-Week September College.
“I was working on a trial, getting ready to try a case that I was quite leery about because there was not much of an offer. That’s when I called Steve Boyd. I said, ‘I want to go over my opening with you and I’d also like to talk about jury selection’, he said, ‘Well, I can’t talk to you because I’m getting ready to go to this TLC Seminar, and since you want to talk about jury selection, why don’t you come with me?’ I said, ‘I don’t have time, my trial is in two weeks. And he replied, ‘All the more reason, why don’t you come?’ So after I talked with my wife, she booked the flight right then and there.”
Paul had read about using psychodrama in the courtroom years ago in an article, but he had forgotten about it until the day he was with his psychodrama group at the TLC Voir Dire Regional. “When I raised my hand, I am one that gets picked with two others. The psychodramatist says, ‘What is your story? Show us what happened?’ So, I started to tell my story and he interrupted, ‘Stop. Stop. Stop. I don’t want you to tell us. I want you to show us’, and boom, we were doing the psychodrama.” Paul reflects on the experience as indescribable, incredibly important on a personal level, and one of the most amazing experiences he has ever had. He learned what it meant to be vulnerable in front of his jury and how vital it is to connect with them in a special way. Learn methods like these at TLC’s Psychodrama for Lawyers program held at Thunderhead Ranch this summer.
$384,000 Victory for Client
Paul received this victory verdict two weeks after he attended the TLC Voir Dire Regional for his young client who had, years before, crashed her skateboard in an undivided asphalt repair road. She smashed her chin on the pavement and shattered her jaw in two places. During trial, Paul questioned an expert witness on her medical problems who determined she will have chronic pain and difficulty for the rest of her life. “She’s not able to chew solid food. She’s still eating soft food three years later because it affected her temporomandibular joint (TMJ) and will be a lifelong issue she will have to deal with.”, says Paul.
At the California regional, Paul learned how important it was for him to identify his ‘danger points’ in the case. “My danger point was a big comparative negligence issue, which was the stop sign and this road repair issue. In talking with the lawyers that I spoke with in California, I made the decision that during jury selection, I had to identify that point right off the bat.” Paul supported this theme throughout the entire trial and expressed to the jury several times that his client was taking responsibility for her actions, but the defense was not taking responsibility for theirs, and that was the problem.“The jury completely understood what I was saying because it was true!”
Another expression that was used often during this seminar is to ‘run towards the fire’. Those words have deep meaning to Paul because he is a retired firefighter and can put that expression into real-life experiences. “A week before my trial, I changed everything and set a whole different approach to my preparation and how I was going to communicate the case to the jury. I decided to run towards the fire, be completely honest with my jury about every facet of the trial, our weaknesses as well as the defense’s weaknesses. It was totally liberating for me.”
The Voir Dire Regional for Paul, as he describes it, was invaluable. “It changed my life and my practice. The experience made all the difference in the result I got. I expected a ‘no cause verdict’ which means a loss, because of some of the issues brought up by the defense. Other lawyers were telling me to get out of the case or to take whatever they were offering, but they weren’t offering much. I ran towards the fire and got nearly 1 million, but was reduced for the comparative negligence to $384,000 for my client. She was very pleased.”
Paul Barr is a partner at his Personal Injury & Medical Malpractice firm in Buffalo, New York. Barr graduated from UB Law School in 1999 where he received the Thomas Wolfe Scholarship for academic excellence. Paul’s experience helping the injured began over twenty years ago as a member of the Niagara Falls Fire Department. in 1999, Paul was awarded the Levy Brothers Memorial Award for heroism for actions above and beyond the call of duty. Paul plans to attend the Closing Argument, Washington Regional in October this year in addition to many more TLC Regionals and Programs over the next years.