My late uncle, Louis Vaira, was an experienced trial and appellate lawyer in Pittsburgh. When asked his opinion of another practicing lawyer he would often respond, “He never tried a case.” That was his first critical observation; did that lawyer ever try a case? If Uncle Lou were alive today, he would make that remark many more times. Civil trials have diminished drastically and, because of that, the number of skilled trial lawyers has declined. Note that I am not talking about litigators. There are more than enough litigators. I refer to trial lawyers who can present a contested case before a judge or jury, exam and cross exam witnesses, submit documents, and make an argument.
In 2004, The American College of Trial Lawyers published a white paper, “The Vanishing Trial,” which discussed the diminishing number of civil trials. The paper concluded that one byproduct of the diminishing number of trials was the dwindling number of trial lawyers who could effectively prepare and take a case to trial. I will not discuss the reasons for the decline of the civil trials except to note that civil trials are certainly near extinction in federal court. The purpose of today’s article is to suggest methods of how to maintain a group of attorneys at the bar who are trained for and can try a civil case before a judge or jury.
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