The Stress of Trial

Funny, after many years of trial consulting, I've never bothered to consider what an incredibly intense level of stress we are expected to endure for weeks -- or even months at a time, when we are in trial. The Holmes and Rahe stress scale is basically a list of a list of 43 stressful life events that can lead to illness.

What was interesting, if not alarming, this past weekend at the ASTC Conference in Seattle, was when Ric Dexter shared that we can approach the breaking point, just by being in trial. Little things such as changes in work, sleep patterns, eating, exercise, living conditions, place of residence, personal habits, and social activities are all adding up, making us increasingly vulnerable to illness or other issues, such as a short temper or lack of patience for others.

I've always realized trial was stressful, and that tempers were often short (including my own), but I guess I never really gave it much thought. It's just part of the job. We just do our best to adjust, and try to be as effective as possible.

While I was working recently with three defense firms and their clients in a complex class action trial (insanely high degree of life stressors in play), one attorney commented to me that she had noticed my calm demeanor, and had surmised that I was certainly the lucky owner of a "Type B" personality. I had to chuckle. If I weren't OCD, and hadn't thoroughly prepared, checked, double-checked, backed up my data, and felt completely confident in all of my preparation the night before, I would not have gone to sleep. That's just me, but that's also just trial. There are no good excuses for failure when you're in trial, and there is no chance I would risk not having enough time to get something done in the morning. Last-minute changes are the rule -- not the exception.

Am I a Type B? Hardly. Do I appear to have those laid-back qualities to others? Apparently so -- and that's my goal. I've been told many times that I bring a sense of calm confidence to the trial team. I wouldn't want it any other way.

I enjoyed presenting my topic of iPad Apps for Litigation (go figure), but I'm also glad to have benefitted from this valuable bit of insight, along with all of the other great sessions and presenters.

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