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A trial before a jury can often be seen as a battle for credibility. In a products liability action, for instance, the plaintiff may seek to portray the defendant as a corporate outlaw, a rogue who values profits over safety, who would rather lie to cover up transgressions than pay the injured plaintiff just compensation. In a products defense, the defendant may seek to portray itself as a responsible citizen, beset by plaintiffs and their paid experts, who are overreaching in an attempt to extort money from a deep-pockets, but wrongly accused, party. Who wins the case depends greatly on whom the jury trusts. THE FIRST MOMENTS The best trial lawyers have learned how to establish credibility — for themselves and their clients — starting in the first moments of trial. They make no claims in opening statement or throughout the trial that they cannot back up with evidence. They do not put on experts at trial who can be impeached with contradictions in testimony from earlier trials or hearings. They admit weaknesses in their own cases early on, in voir dire and opening statement. They explain abstruse or complex matters in down-to-earth, bias-free language so the jury looks at them as the objective source of knowledge in the trial. Each year, The National Law Journal selects and profiles 10 trial attorneys nationwide who have established themselves as among the nation’s best at establishing credibility with jurors. The profiles concentrate on how each attorney handles a lawsuit, using a recent major win as an example. The list of attorneys profiled each year is governed by two factors — the attorney has created a long record of wins in the courtroom and has won at least one recent high-profile jury trial. Most of the lawyers profiled this year have not lost a jury trial in years; nearly all have won more than 90 percent of the trials during their careers. Each has won one of the nation’s biggest trials over the past 18 months. Stephen L. Snyder of Baltimore’s Snyder, Slutkin & Lodowski won a $276 million verdict in March in a breach of contract and fraud claim against First Union National Bank. Ron E. Shulman of Palo Alto, Calif.’s Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati won a patent infringement defense in December against Intel Corp., where a loss would have put into grave jeopardy the corporate life of his client, Broadcom Corp. Philip E. Kay of San Francisco won one of the largest-ever punitive awards in a sexual harassment claim in April — $30 million for six plaintiffs in the claim against Ralph’s Grocery Co. David B. Potter of Oppenheimer Wolff & Donnelly in 2001 won the first case to trial in a toxic torts action against Montana Rail Link over a train derailment that caused a toxic spill and the three-week evacuation of a town. Lisa Blue of Dallas’ Baron & Budd won one of the largest-ever jury verdicts for a single plaintiff in an asbestos case — $55 million in a Texas trial last year. VARIETY MARKS CASES The cases tried by the attorneys selected this year vary considerably. Five of the trials were won by plaintiffs in claims ranging from consumer fraud to personal injury, asbestos and breach of contract. Five were won by defendants, in civil cases on toxic torts, products liability and patent infringement, and in one white-collar criminal trial covering charges of racketeering, fraud and conspiracy. The practice areas vary greatly as well. Some of the attorneys are specialists. Shulman handles only patent infringement litigation, usually for the defense. Kay concentrates solely on employment litigation, representing only plaintiffs. While almost all of the attorneys represent only one side in litigation, Edward Blackmon Jr. of Canton, Miss.’ Blackmon & Blackmon represents plaintiffs and defendants. Blackmon, in fact, has represented corporate defendants in certain cases while he was suing them as plaintiffs’ counsel in others. BOUTIQUES AND GIANTS Some of the attorneys, like Shulman or Abbe David Lowell of Los Angeles’ Manatt, Phelps & Phillips, are from big, multipurpose, traditional law firms. But most are from smaller litigation boutiques. Kay is the lone solo practitioner of the group. Each of the profiles covers only one attorney. But few worked alone. Christian D. Searcy of West Palm Beach, Fla.’s Searcy Denney Scarola Barnhart & Shipley, for example, split duties with several attorneys from his firm, primarily partner Darryl Lewis. Potter’s co-lead counsel, Randy Cox of Missoula, Mont.’s Boone, Karlberg & Haddon, was critical during the trial and in the pretrial motions practice phase, where the defense narrowed the issues for trial. It should be noted that these are the views of the trials as told by the winning attorneys. Several of the cases are in post-trial motions or on appeal and the results may yet be overturned. But, for now, the juries in these trials have rendered their decisions. These profiles describe how the winning attorneys believed they won those victories.

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