Commercial litigator Robert J. Kozloski, III, shared this “SynerG War Story” about the value of being forewarned by his mentor of the possibility of a strategic (and baseless) objection during his first opening statement just to unsettle him at the start of a trial:
Jury trials can be one of the most exciting parts of being a litigator, but they can also be the most contentious and stress-inducing part. When I was about 3 years out of law school, I was representing one of my own clients who I had defended from the outset of his case – a first for me at the time. The dawn of trial arrived, and this was my first “speaking role” at trial as it was my job to handle the opening statement. I had intently studied my outline, reviewed every inch of the file, and felt as though I was more ready than I could ever be. As was the case for every hearing or trial, my boss/mentor called me in the car on the way to the courthouse to go over everything and make sure all of our ducks were in a row for the day. While we went over the detailed logistics of the upcoming day, he warned me of something that could throw me for a loop – something that I would never have thought would happen. He warned me of the chance that opposing counsel would object during my opening statement since I was a young lawyer and could use an objection as a potential tactic to throw me off. He told me no matter what it was to act like it was no big deal and a normal part of the process whether the objection was sustained or overruled and just continue like nothing unusual had just happened. I took the advice not thinking much of it at the time but could not have been happier for it.
We arrived at the calendar call and proceeded through voir dire without any event. However, when I was about 10 minutes into my opening statement, low and behold, opposing counsel flew out of his chair and began objecting up and down. I turned around from the jury and was instructed by the judge to approach the bench. When we arrived, opposing counsel explained his objection (that he thought I was about to say something that we stipulated not to discuss) and the judge overruled him allowing me to continue. Having been caught completely off guard, I gathered my thoughts and attempted to recall where I was in my outline with at least 30 people from around the courtroom staring at me – a rather daunting experience for a young lawyer. Fortunate for me having received this advice from my boss/mentor, I expected this, and was able to jump right back into where I was in my opening statement. We ended up winning the trial, but that memory will always stick with me for the rest of my career.
Moral of the story is that young lawyers should always listen to their peers and mentors since they have an abundance of knowledge that they have acquired throughout their careers. While law school prepares law students for the practice of law in many ways, there are simply some things that are technique-based that only come with experience. I often wonder what would have happened if I was not warned of a potential strategic objection during my opening statement since we are taught not to object during opening statements unless absolutely necessary and that objections during opening are very rare. Thankfully, I have a good boss/mentor who was able to prepare me in advance and assist me in obtaining an excellent result for our client.
Robert J. Kozloski, III, Rob has a boutique complex commercial litigation practice at Graham Legal, LLC, email@example.com
www.graham.legal, SynerG Member since August of 2016, https://synerglawcomplex.com/team-members/robert-j-kozloski-iii/
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