I'm reading Courting Justice, from NY Yankees v. Major League Baseball to Bush v. Gore, by David Boies, and to prove it, here are some nuggets of legal wisdom from the book:
On litigation generally:
Craps and litigation have their similarities. It is necessary to manage your exposure while taking risks. It is critical to be patient and not get carried away. Luck plays a key part. Every hand, short or long, eventually ends. And the result of every new roll, like the result of every new case, is independent of the last.
Id., p. 42.
High-stakes litigation is a team sport.
Id., p. 49.
In many ways a trial, like skydiving, is not inherently difficult; however, both can be terribly unforgiving of even the slightest inattention.
Id., p. 305.
The American legal system generally does not deal effectively with litigants who are prepared to lie and fabricate documents. Lawyers are reluctant to believe that their client is actually lying and are generally prepared to present to a court whatever "evidence" their client gives them. Judges, often facing busy schedules and almost always loath to believe that litigants and their lawyers will lie and fabricate evidence, are equally reluctant to act; when one side makes a charge of extreme misconduct and the other hotly denies it, courts have a hard time concluding that a party has simply made things up. As a result, many courts do not like to hear charges of serious misconduct and tend to believe that such charges are more likely false and interposed for tactical reasons. Charges of misconduct that cannot be clearly proven can end up hurting the litigant making them, even if they are true.
Id., p. 82.
On Trial Management:
As a leadoff witness you need someone who will point some points on the board and do no damage; you do not want to take a risk. If your first impression with a judge or jury is not good, your case is in trouble. You also want a witness who can explain the overall case and put matters in context.
Id., p. 176.
In court, as on the radio or television, five seconds of dead air is a long pause; fifteen seconds can seem like an eternity.
Id., p. 188.
Arguing in the alternative is permissible in a lawsuit, and many defendants do it -- particularly in the early stages of litigation when lawyers are trying to ascertain the facts and determine what their best arguments may be. However, by trial, especially before a jury, such arguments become difficult. Juries do not want to hear clever hypotheses about what the facts might be; they want witnesses, and lawyers, to tell them what the facts are. . . . Jururs, in general, do understand the burden of proof and will require a plaintiff to prove its case. However, jurors have little patience with a defenant's trying to use the burden of proof to take inconsistent positions.
On Witness Preparation:
A witness who fights battles he or she cannot win, and who is consequently embarassed, will often end up giving up more than is necessary.
Id., p. 190.
The opportunity to do well by doing good is not that frequent and should be seized -- particularly when the opportunity is presented to an old lawyer with a young firm.
Id., p. 231.
Many lawyers believe that they should stake out an aggressive position at the outset of a case. Sometimes that works; more often it does not. In my experience, lawyers and their clients should be quick to settle early and slow to settle late. By failing to resolve a case early, litigants often miss an opportunity to settle before they (and their opponents) have run up large costs, and before positions have hardened as a result of the attacks that are inherent in an adversarial legal system. At the same time, it is dangerous to lose your nerve late in the game when the terms available may be at their worst. It is rarely possible to know for sure whether a particular case should be tried or settled, and facts discovered and analysis made along the way can certainly change an initial judgment.
Id., p. 238.
[I]f litigation is like bridge, the settlement of litigation is like poker.
Id., p. 345.
An exception to the hearsay rule allows government reports to be admitted in evidence. This exception fails to take into account the extent to which such reports reflect the political and policy agendas, and the plausible but by no means unimpeachable points of view, of the people responsible for their preparation. Jurors tend to give government reports very heavy weight, and without the author present to be cross-examined, there is often little a party can do to counteract them effectively. It would usually be fairer to allow experts to rely on the reports (as they can rely on anything the expert finds useful) but not to allow the reports themselves to be admitted as exhibits.
Id., p. 291 footnote.