Career Advice

Intellectual Qualities of Successful Trial Lawyers

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Not all lawyers are the same, at least intellectually. Although the bar exam administered in all fifty states and legal territories throughout the United States tests analytical and logic skills, it does not measure them in a lawyer. This is important to understand, because the lawyer, especially a trial or tort lawyer, must win cases in the courtroom. The possession of natural intellectual qualities is what separates good trial lawyers from great and successful ones.

If you are looking to improve your odds of victory in the courtroom, you need to work with lawyers who possess certain intellectual qualities; this is especially the case when you’re looking for a person who handles more complex litigation. These qualities, which aid their approach to their work, include intellectual courage, deductive reasoning, integrity, intellectual humility, and empathy for you and your situation.

Intellectual Courage

This quality speaks to the ability of a person to take on issues that may be in opposition to their own thoughts, feelings, or perceptions. The role of an attorney is that of an advocate on behalf of the client’s position. It is not uncommon for the views or position of a trial lawyer’s client to be in opposition to those of the attorney. There must be a careful balancing act struck between the attorney’s view of the world and your world view as a client, which signals the presence of intellectual courage in the trial lawyer.

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Deductive Reasoning

The process of deductive reasoning, important to all lawyers, involves the finding of solutions based on a stated question. The steps taken to reach the solution are based on a logical and analytical path designed to prove the logic in the resulting conclusion. It is being able to logically conclude that if 1 + 1 = 2 and 2 + 2 = 4 then 1 is half of 2 and 2 is half of 4. Being able to arrive at a conclusion in a logical manner based on the presentation of the evidence is an important intellectual quality that a trial lawyer must possess.


Intelligence is built on a foundation of integrity. Integrity in an advocacy-type system like the law means maintaining an adherence to your standards and principles. The basis for this adherence to one’s principles is the existence of proof and evidence to validate your standard. Integrity is also seen as upholding the same standards in oneself that you see in others and also the ability to recognize shortcomings and admit to them.

Intellectual Humility

In addition to courage and integrity, humility is another intellectual trait that a lawyer representing you at trial should possess. Their humility should come from a sense of confidence in their skills and knowledge of the law, as well as a downplaying of any arrogance or pretentiousness. A trial attorney that has humility possesses the proper perspective of themselves and their role in advocacy of your cause and the successful outcome of your case.

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The final intellectual trait every trial attorney should possess is empathy. A trial attorney should be able to display genuine empathy toward you and your plight, as demonstrated by their advocacy on your behalf and the effort they put forth to ensure a successful outcome. This trait allows the attorney to display passion and emotion and lay out arguments in a more acceptable, decisive, and logical way.

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