What is a Trial Lawyer?

What is a Trial Lawyer?
Oct 8, 2019

What is a trial lawyer? This is a question I’m often asked, as many lawyers claim to be trial lawyers. A trial lawyer actually tries cases before juries. Hard cases and easy cases. Real trial lawyers have win/loss records that are not perfect. Some lawyers who claim to be trial lawyers, and even put the words “trial lawyers” on their business cards and websites, never try cases. Or, if they do, they only try easy cases. Easy cases are cases where the risks are not high and the chances of losing are quite low. I think of myself as a real trial lawyer. I’ve tried around 100 cases, and while I have won way more than I have lost, I’ve lost plenty. I’m not happy that I lost even a single case. But, I’m proud of myself and my law firm for taking cases to trial when that was the right thing to do.

Defense lawyers, insurers and corporations know real trial lawyers from “posers.” In today’s world, the data on who tries cases and who does not, is easy for the other side to acquire and take advantage of. The difference in the actual compensation recovered by the injured client is remarkable. Think about it for a minute. If a case goes to mediation, and the defendant knows that the wannabe trial lawyer representing the plaintiff will not go to trial, there is no real fear that a trial will occur. In those cases, the defense gets to choose the amount it will pay. The plaintiff simply has no leverage. As a result, these cases usually settle for pennies on the dollar. In contrast, when a plaintiff is represented by lawyers like those at Warshauer Woodward Atkins, who have a track record of going to trial, the other side has to either pay a fair amount or face the risks and costs associated with having a jury decide the case.

Many years ago, my partner Lyle Warshauer and I were trying a medical malpractice case against two prominent doctors in Athens. We had tried to settle the case, but on each occasion our client was offered well less than what we thought was fair. The doctors’ insurance company, the largest malpractice insurer in Georgia, didn’t know us. But we had tried lots of cases against great lawyers and huge corporate defendants, and had a very successful track record. While still quite young, we had won jury verdicts, dozens of times, for millions of dollars. So, we certainly knew who we were and what we could do. We were certainly not going to be enticed by a large settlement offer that was not fair to our client. So, we tried the case. During the trial, a senior manager for the insurer told me, “We don’t know you, and so we are not going to pay your demand.” My response was pretty bold: “Well, lots of large companies do know us, and you’ll know us when this case is over.” Strong words – but that’s what real trial lawyers do. They are bold and confident when the other side has backed them against the wall and left them two choices – take a settlement that is too low, or try the case. Real trial lawyers always choose the latter – to try the case. And that is exactly what we did. At the end of that case, the jury brought back a verdict that was the highest in Clarke County history. (One of many record verdicts we have obtained.) Needless to say, they know us now. And needless to say, our client who was compensated sufficiently to provide care for her, for the rest of her life, is lucky to have found real trial lawyers too.

The life of a real trial lawyer is pretty difficult. But there is simply nothing quite like the feeling of helping a worthy family recover full, fair and just compensation. The Seventh Amendment to the United States Constitution guarantees the right to trial by jury – only real trial lawyers are making sure that promise is kept for everyone.

-Written by Michael J. Warshauer