Rick Friedman: The fallacy of comparison


Trial Lawyers: We should learn from each other, but not compare ourselves to each other.

Last Friday afternoon I saw trial lawyer Rick Friedman speak at the Consumer Attorneys of California State Convention in San Francisco.  Rick spoke about how destructive if can be for a trial lawyer to compare themselves to another trial lawyer.  Mr. Friedman was making the point that we do not make ourselves better by comparing ourselves to other trial lawyers.  “Every case is different and every jury is different,” he said.  Comparing our trial results to other trial lawyer’s results unnecessarily causes a loss of confidence.  Stressing the point, Mr. Friedman feels much more comfortable talking with other trial lawyers about the cases he has lost.  It’s good to know even legends as successful as Rick Friedman lose cases.

Many of us may unknowingly hold ourselves back, or lessen the risks we are willing to take, when we compare ourselves to other lawyers who may be having more recent courtroom success that we have had.  Mr. Friedman knows jury trials are a risky pursuit and that each one of us has to fight, scratch and claw, in our own individual ways, to achieve our client’s own unique victories.  The danger lies when one of us gives up or gives in as a result of a confidence draining comparison with another lawyer who we wrongly believe, “…has some intangible we simply do not possess.”

To reiterate, the dangerous thought Mr. Friedman spoke about was thinking to ourselves, “…that trial lawyer has something that I just don’t have and that’s why they are having more success.”  That is a destructive thought for any trial lawyer to harbor.  Mr. Friedman spoke of the lawyer with horrible social skills, horrible knowledge of the law, that can walk into a courtroom and win more often than not. Why is that? Should we compare ourselves to such a lawyer?

Mr. Friedman was not advocating that we should not watch and learn from other trial lawyers.    Nor was he suggesting that trial techniques, arguments, and strategies successfully used by other lawyers should not be added to our arsenal of advocacy, if they fit our style.  In fact just the opposite, the CAOC convention is an annual festival of learning from some of California’s greatest lawyers.  Let’s learn from the greatest trial lawyers our profession has to offer; but don’t let their success cause anyone of us to pause about our ability to achieve similar results in our own unique ways.  Great trial lawyers win hard cases, but they also lose hard cases, and each one of them does it with their own true style.  The traits that are consistent among the best is an unwavering persistent belief in yourself along with a relentless desire to make yourself better in the face of victory or defeat.

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In his 20 years of law practice, Al has handled more than 40 jury trials. This experience, combined with a commitment to ethics and integrity, has earned Al an excellent reputation throughout the San Francisco Bay Area legal community. He is the recipient of Martindale-Hubbell‘s “AV” peer rating, which signifies preeminent legal ability and ethical standards, and has been named a Northern California Super Lawyer every year since 2006. In 2009, Al was awarded the prestigious 2009 Civil Justice Award by the San Francisco Trial Lawyers Association, given to attorneys who show integrity, grit, tenacity, ethics, and great advocacy skills, and who contribute to the betterment of consumers and/or injured victims and their families.

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