October 24th, 2023

First Impression

Malcome Gladwell says we form our first impression within seconds (two seconds to be exact). He points to studies showing not much difference between a first impression based on seconds and an impression based on prolonged exposure. (See What the Dog Saw).

On reflection this makes sense in our age of sound bites and rapid fire media coverage. This also makes sense when we look at ourselves from an evolutionary standpoint. Our prehistoric ancestors had to immediately react on first impression to survive.

Applying the reality of first impression to a jury trial means our jurors form an impression of us before we open our mouths. According to Gladwell people like and trust people who appear confident and smile. To fail to make immediate eye contact and smile when jurors enter the courtroom is to miss the initial first impression opportunity.

Jury consultants David Ball and Harry Plotkin teach the importance of jury selection and opening statement in establishing the case in the minds of the jurors. Jury selection is the first time we have a dialog with our jurors. The great Clarence Darrow is reported to have whispered to his second chair after jury selection “the trial is over.” (He was correct in that case).

Opening statement is the first time we introduce the case to our jurors. Both Mr. Ball and Mr. Plotkin teach to begin dispassionately with the conduct of defendant. Then introduce plaintiff in a factual way without trying to sell the case. The aura is that of an accurate historian where the facts call for justice in favor of our injured plaintiff. This leaves a first impression of objectivity. When we do this with a pleasant demeanor coupled with an aura of acceptance we make a favorable first impression. Although the trial is not over we are on our way to success with a favorable first impression.

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May 16th, 2016

Zen Lawyer Volume II


patMy Zen Lawyer Blog started in April 2010. I have tried to use non-copyrighted internet photographs or illustrations to support my content. All blog written content has been drafted by Patrick Trudell and edited by Patrick Trudell.

Several months ago out of caution, and to insure compliance with copyright law, I deleted most of the illustrations and photographs that supported initial blog content.  Now I only post photographs or illustrations that are original to me or from sites that grant express prior approval to post.

I am re-posting prior blog content. Prior blog content  being re-posted has been re-edited.  Additionally, I will continue to post new content so the blog is a combination of updating prior posts  and  new content.


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May 6th, 2010

Simon Rifkind Part Two

 Simon Rifkind teaches lawyers, parties and witnesses are “actors” in the trial.  Even when they do not have lines they are on stage. Members of the audience (jurors) observe the lawyers, parties and witnesses when testifying and when not.

From my experience Rifkind is right. From a client standpoint the biggest mistake occurs when the client appears to be too involved with their lawyer in trying the case. This is off plot. The lawyer is the person who is expected to try the case. When the client appears to be telling the lawyer what to do, or when the client appears too strident, jurors dislike the client; the client loses the image of the hero and becomes a wanna be lawyer which is bad.

From the lawyer’s perspective it is essential to remain like a duck. A duck looks calm above the water but below the water unobserved the duck is paddling briskly to stay afloat. The lawyer must keep a cool demeanor in the face of trial adversity. The lawyer must show professionalism to opposition counsel, witnesses, court staff  and the judge. The lawyer should never appear to be a bully or out of control. There is nothing wrong with destroying an opposition witness, and this at times needs to be done, but it needs to be performed calmly, methodically and with professionalism.

It is also important to recognize that unlike a play the stage in a trial is anywhere a juror may observe client or lawyer or witnesses. Rifkind would agree to dress and act like going to and being in church at all times anywhere near the courthouse. This will not in and of itself win the case but it could lose the case.

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May 5th, 2010

Lessons from Simon Rifkind Part One


As a young lawyer wanting to be a trial lawyer I read Simon Rifkind. Mr. Rifkind was a Wall Street lawyer and partner in the firm Paul, Weiss, Rifkind. He was appointed by Franklin D. Roosevelt, as Federal Judge, Southern District of New York, where he served from 1941-1950. He voluntarily left the federal bench because he was bored by poor lawyering which he found the rule rather than the exception.

Mr. Rifkind’s passion was trying cases. He was a pure trial lawyer-a renaissance lawyer- in that he immersed himself into a new field for most of his trials.  He did this to grow in new areas. This allowed him to learn about life by trying cases.

Once a case gets to trial Simon Rifkind believes the same dynamics take place. These are the dynamics of trial. To Rifkind a trial is a play. There is a hero (usually his client) and a villain (usually the opposition). The jury is the audience, the judge, lawyers, and witnesses are actors. The lawyer has a unique position as he is both an actor and the producer of the play. Rifkind teaches trials like plays must have a theme. The theme should announce the client’s cause with the ends of justice. The audience will find a way to apply the law so the hero wins and justice prevails.

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April 22nd, 2010

Welcome to Zen Lawyer Seattle

Welcome to the launch of the Zen Lawyer Seattle blog, brought to you by Seattle Personal Injury Lawyer Patrick Trudell.

This is my new blog page. I am a personal injury lawyer representing injured people. The photo is of my wife Kristina and me.

My blog is titled Zen Lawyer Seattle because I practice law in the Seattle area, and believe a key to life and law is living in the present. I am working on doing this as well as encouraging my clients to appreciate the present.

When a client is the victim of a personal injury it is difficult to accept the present and the injury.  This is important to do because the only way out of the injury is to attack it in the present through medical treatment and working toward recovery by being as active as possible. The key is being Zen- like: accept the reality of the injury, without blame or feeling victimized, recognize you hold the key to recovery, and recovery lies with your decision to move forward in the present to regain what you have lost through injury.

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