If you’re like me, you’ve been watching the Tokyo Olympics for the last week or so. But unlike me, you probably haven’t stopped to think how being a trial lawyer is like being an Olympian. The truth is there aren’t that many similarities – but there are a few that I’ve come to understand over the years.
First, just like being an Olympic athlete, there is no substitute for hard work. Yes, natural talent is required to be a great trial lawyer, just like natural talent is required to be a great swimmer or weightlifter. But if you don’t work hard at your craft, develop your strengths, improve your weaknesses, and constantly grow as a practitioner, you will only go so far.
Second, just like Olympians, trial lawyers live in a world that includes the reality of winning and losing. This is unusual in that most occupations do not “win or lose.” And the pressure to win can be intense. A trial lawyer can do an outstanding job preparing for a hearing or trial, yet still lose. Dealing with this pressure is an occupational hazard that anyone who is interested in becoming a trial lawyer should know about before committing to the profession. Personally, I love winning and I cope well with the fear of losing. But I know many people who did not cope well with this dynamic – they are former trial lawyers.
It is unlikely that trial lawyering will ever become an Olympic event (although I had the same opinion about surfing, BMX biking, and trampolining). Surely, if it ever happens, it will not receive the NBC prime time treatment. But that does not mean that I can’t think of myself as a potential future Olympian. Even trial lawyers have a right to dream.