I hope each of you had a wonderful Thanksgiving complete with turkey, dressing, green bean casserole (Karl’s favorite), family, and friends. We had a blessed holiday, and now, we are entering my favorite time of year. It’s a time of gratitude and reflection for me. I want to take some time to thank the trial lawyers that work in my offices and explain what being a “trial lawyer” truly means.
By DISTRICT ATTORNEY MARIE BRODER
I was a first-year law student at the University of Georgia (Go Dawgs!), and one of our grades depended on the presentation of an appellate argument to a panel of judges. The process was known as “moot court.”
As part of our first-year writing requirement, we had to take a hypothetical set of facts, review the law that might apply, and write a brief for and against a certain position. The brief had to follow the same rules as if we were practicing attorneys. There were citation requirements, page limits, and no room for error in typos or grammar mistakes.
Just like a practicing attorney, we had to then present our arguments orally to a panel of judges. We had a limited amount of time to speak, and the judges could ask us any question they wanted. This was a useful exercise, because it is the same process an attorney goes through to argue a motion to the court or on an appeal. It is also a terrifying experience because it combines public speaking with being questioned by a potentially hostile group of people.
As students, we were placed into a tournament. Everyone had to argue at least twice. The first rounds were judged by older students involved in the moot court program. Winners were taken from each group, and it culminated in an argument before practicing attorneys and actual judges.
As we were preparing for this process, the Director of Advocacy spoke to all the students. Her job was to run the Moot Court program and identify future trial lawyers. Her comments to us were refreshingly blunt.
In essence, she told us that everyone had to go through the initial process of arguing their brief, but some people either had “it,” or they don’t. This seemed harsh to me and many of my classmates at the time. We all came to law school with excellent grades and backgrounds that demanded good performance, but what she said made very clear that some people are cut out to be courtroom advocates and some are simply not. It was a strong dose of reality. And she was right.
You see, the legal profession is not that much different from the medical profession. Some people are very good at reading a CT scan and finding cancer without ever meeting you, and some people are surgeons who can perform open heart surgery. Both are doctors, but their skill sets are vastly different and those skills sets are not interchangeable.
Some lawyers can write an excellent contract, but you don’t want them defending you in a courtroom when your life is on the line.
Prosecutors are, by definition, “trial lawyers.” You cannot administer Justice behind a desk. And as your District Attorney, I look for assistant district attorneys that have that “it” factor my advocacy teacher talked about.
What does “it” factor mean? For me, it means prosecutors who are comfortable responding to a Judge’s questions during a plea hearing. It means prosecutors who can argue motions to the Judge about “technicalities” that might make or break a case. And, most importantly, it means a prosecutor who can talk to complete strangers to pick a jury, present evidence, know rules of evidence, and argue to their last breath for the jury to convict those who have committed heinous crimes.
Those attorneys who have the “it” factor are hard to find in our profession and it is even harder to convince them to live a life of public service over the financial opportunities their skills could bring them in personal injury cases or as criminal defense attorneys.
You are very fortunate to have a team of attorneys with the “it” factor protecting victims and pursuing justice in this Circuit. The prosecutors in my offices have had a tremendous year trying very difficult cases.
As the end of the year approaches, I’m working on my annual year-end summary. I am absolutely amazed at the work they have done. I am extremely proud of my team … prosecutors with hearts for the job and the ”it” factor. We all work hard to keep you safe. Until next time, be kind to each other.
[Marie Broder has served as the Griffin Judicial Circuit district attorney since 2020. She resides in Griffin.]