Lincoln Law School, The Gavel: Book Review
Book Review: Mastering the Mechanics of Civil Jury Trials
By Clifton Wester, 3L
This strategic guide offers a primer for law students or budding attorneys. The guide is a mentor-in-a-briefcase for attorneys representing either plaintiff or defendant. The sequential layout is logical and includes sage wisdom and common-sense strategy. Mastering the Mechanics of Civil Jury Trials (Balcony 7 Media and Publishing, October 2015) is also a fascinating read. It provides a real-life glimpse inside the mechanics of courtroom procedure and sheds light on the nuances and strategies of the civil justice system.
“Every young lawyer should carry this practice manual in his or her briefcase as it is a step-by-step guide on how to try a case-from pre-trial briefs, to the use of challenges, to the opening statement and development of a theme. The manual includes everything from a guide to introducing evidence to closing argument. This book should be a Bible for every trial lawyer-to-be. Most importantly, it is a common-sense guide on what to do and when. It is the food you eat to undertake the trial journey. Unfortunately, we are not teaching these lessons in law school today.” —Joseph W. Cotchett (Cotchett, Pitre & McCarthy in San Francisco, CA).
Tyler Draa, recently retired partner of Silicon Valley litigation firm Greenfield Draa & Harrington LLP, is a front man of sorts for the dynamic team whose experience sets forth the anatomy of a trial. The Honorable Franklin E. Bondonno, of the Superior Court of California, County of Santa Clara, provides judicial commentary. Co-authors Maureen Harrington (partner at Greenfield Draa & Harrington) and Doris Cheng (Walkup, Melodia, Kelly & Schoenberger in San Francisco), are among the highest ranked women lawyers in California.
As an attorney, Mr. Draa’s practice focus is primarily professional liability. He principally defends health care providers, but also lawyers, insurance companies and personnel, as well as other professionals in lawsuits and administrative proceedings. Throughout his legal career, he has tried over 70 cases and is also an appellate lawyer with more than a dozen published decisions. Currently, he teaches trial practice courses through Continuing Legal Education (CLE) programs and has participated as an instructor for the National Institute of Trial Advocacy (NITA) Masters of Trial program. He currently volunteers to assist as adjunct faculty for the University of San Francisco Law School’s Intensive Trial Advocacy Program.
The staff of the Gavel had the opportunity to meet and interview Mr. Draa at the offices of Greenfield Draa & Harrington shortly before the release of Mastering the Mechanics of Civil Jury Trials. He shared with us that his motivation for writing the book was his son. His son and a young partner were preparing to try their first case, and they asked Mr. Draa to give them some pointers. He replied, “It will take days,” they said fine. He decided to write the do’s and don’ts from his prospective. Once he began to put together a quick study guide, he realized that he could be on to something. So he assembled a 3-day course in his garage for the two of them. His quick study guide became larger. It was then that he thought “this could be a book,” and today his first book is the product of that project, initiated by his desire to help his son defeat his first opponent.
Tyler Draa feels that his target audience is the young, fresh J.D. graduate, preparing to litigate his or her first trial. Due to the almost instant notoriety of his quick study guide, he thought what a joy it would be to see a first time litigator standing at the counselor’s table with a copy of his work in his or her possession. He also sees this book as one that an attorney would give to his client to read in order to help explain the process.
Tyler Draa pulled his team together by asking Judge Bondonno if he would critique the draft. His Honor contributed by providing many comments. He felt that his way of doing civil trials was only one perspective; a defense attorney’s style is procedurally and philosophically quite different. So he reached out to Doris Cheng in San Francisco. Ms. Cheng liked it and he asked her to contribute and she was very amenable. Tyler Draa realized that he needed to include the commercial approach, so he enlisted the help of Maureen Harrington. What he compiled was a plaintiff ’s view, a defense view, and a commercial view with judicial oversight to keep them all honest.
We finally asked Mr. Draa if he was open to conducting a seminar at Lincoln Law School sometime in the future and he stated that he would be happy to. Stay tuned!
Personal: Mr. Draa lives in Santa Clara County with his wife of 31 years. They have three children. He holds an AV Preeminent rating by Martindale Hubbell (a peer-ranking measure of elite status) and is annually recognized as a California Super Lawyer. He is a member of the American Board of Trial Attorneys (ABOTA). Mr. Draa received his B.A. with honors from Claremont McKenna College and studied law at Lewis and Clark Northwestern School of Law, as well as Hastings College of Law. He earned his Juris Doctor degree from the former institution in 1981. Upon graduation, he was appointed as law clerk to the Honorable William Ingram, United States District Court for the Northern District of California.