Book Review: ‘Kick-Ass Closings’ Gives Trial Lawyers the Tools to Win Cases

Kick-Ass Closings book

Kick-Ass Closings: A Guide to Giving the Best Closing Argument of Your Life

Filled with closing argument gems, compelling quotations, and helpful charts, the new book Kick-Ass Closings: A Guide to Giving the Best Closing Argument of Your Life gives lawyers the firepower to deliver convincing closing arguments with minimal prep time.

Created by best-selling author and criminal defense lawyer Michael S. Waddington, Kick-Ass Closings is 475 pages of successful closing arguments by prominent trial lawyers who actually try cases and win.

Kick-Ass Closings is a guide to giving the best closing argument of your life,” Waddington says. “The book is really designed for criminal defense attorneys, law students, and people who do mock trials. It is packed with snippets of actual closing arguments that I have used, as well as arguments from some of the most high-profile trials in the past 50 years.”

The book is available in a print and Kindle version, exclusively on Amazon.com.

Waddington, a member of The National Trial Lawyers, is a founder of Gonzalez & Waddington, LLC, a defense law firm in Evans, Georgia. He has provided consultation services to CNN Investigative Reports, “60 Minutes,” Katie Couric of Yahoo News, ABC’s “Nightline,” the BBC, German Public Television, CNN, CBS, and the TV series “The Good Wife.”

Key Nuggets

The massive book contains the key nuggets from 310 closing arguments from legendary lawyers and high-profile trials such as Johnnie Cochran representing O.J. Simpson, Jose Baez representing Casey Anthony, and Thomas Mesereau representing Michael Jackson.

It also includes closings from renowned lawyers like Mark Geragos, Eric Romano, Mark O’Mara, Gerry Spence, Timothy Bilecki, Dean Strang, Barry Scheck, Timothy Bilecki, James A.H. Bell, Brian Bieber, Cheney Mason, Robert Casale, Jerome Buting and more.

“It’s not the entire closing argument from the trial, because that would not be helpful to the readers. We picked out the nuggets. For example, in the OJ Simpson case, I looked at Barry Scheck giving OJ’s closing argument, and I picked out specific portions that I thought were very well-delivered and it could help drive a point home,” Waddington says.

Waddington himself tries more than 20 felony cases to a verdict every year, which allowed him to see recurring patterns – ranging from an incompetent investigation, a corrupt police officer or a cynical prosecutor.

“I decided to create a concise manual for lawyers who don’t have the experience and don’t have the ability to go through hundreds of trials,” he says. “Attorneys can go to Kick-Ass Closings to figure out how to explain reasonable doubt, for example. In the book, there are about 25 different ways to explain that to the jury from different lawyers in different cases.”

Criminal defense lawyer and author Michael Waddington.

Criminal defense lawyer and author Michael Waddington.

The greatest closing arguments

The book opens with a 10-step template followed by many of the greatest closing arguments. Attorneys can tailor the template to fit their fact pattern, and add or remove portions that apply.

The closing arguments cover topics like circumstantial evidence, attacking the prosecution, witnesses who lie, cops & investigators, defenses for specific rimes, and shutting down the rebuttal.

One brief example is by Clarence Darrow from The People v. Henry Sweet: “You people are not lawyers. You do not know how hard it was to make them admit the truth. It is harder to pull the truth out of a reluctant witness than to listen to them lie.” Another is Johnnie Cochran in The People v. OJ Simpson: “You can’t trust the message. You can’t trust the messengers.”

“We have a section on types of defenses — everything from self-defense to arguing abandonment. For example, I used an example of Mark O’Mara’s closing where he describes self-defense in the Zimmerman case, which was a very controversial case where he won a full acquittal. But you get the insight into what he argued and what other people argued,” Waddington said.

Pithy Quotes and Charts

Kick-Ass Closings features 20 pages of pithy quotes and parables, ranging from “Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not to his own facts,” by Daniel Patrick Moynihan, to John Adams who said in 1770, “It is more important that innocence be protected than that the guilty be punished.”

The book includes Waddington’s own favorite quote, “Physical, forensic, and scientific evidence does not lie, people do,” which he used in US v. Montece.

There are several charts that depict difficult concepts in a clearly visible way. One that explains the Levels of Proof as a stairstep beginning with “no evidence” and leading up to “reasonable doubt” – each of which equals a not guilty verdict.

Waddington’s book is an encyclopedia of pungent closings that can be looked up with a detailed table of contents. If you are an attorney who tries a criminal case, whether it’s your first case or your 300th, you can benefit from this book. It should be on every lawyer’s bookshelf.

Watch Michael Waddington in a short video on YouTube: https://goo.gl/Eu3mwq

4 Lifestyle Shifts to Make You a More Effective, Healthy Litigator

7-8 hours of quality sleep makes litigators effective on a daily basis.

By Larry Greene.

No matter how much you want to make healthy choices, it often feels like there simply isn’t enough time. When heading out for work, it’s much easier to grab a pre-packaged granola bar than whip up some oatmeal from scratch.

You may also find yourself sacrificing the gym to complete an extra hour of work. What many business professionals don’t realize is that there is a way to be both the busiest and the healthiest version of you. No, it doesn’t mean you’ll only get three hours sleep! You can start by adding these four easy and healthy habits into your schedule.

Sleep 7-8 hours per day

Not just sleep but quality sleep is extremely important to your ability to function on a daily basis. Good sleep improves memory, increases lifespan, and reduces inflammation that can lead to heart disease, stroke, diabetes, arthritis, and premature aging. When you’re working out regularly, sleep is where your body recovers and gets stronger. Whether your goal is weight loss, muscle gain, a longer life, or overall health – you are drastically inhibiting your progress by not sleeping well.

Do you feel like you don’t have enough time to sleep well? Maybe at the end of the night you decide to get one extra hour of work in instead of an extra hour of sleep. Consider this – the tasks you accomplish in that extra hour of work are far less efficient and you are far less productive the next day than if you’d gotten an extra hour of quality sleep. Whatever tasks you’re staying up late to complete can likely be done first thing in the morning after a good night’s rest with much better efficiency!  

If you constantly wake up tired, or if you grind your teeth or snore at night, the quality of your sleep is most likely impaired.  Quantity vs quality of sleep must be considered.

Make 3-ingredient meals

Effective litigators avoid “white foods” like like bread, white rice, flour, pasta, crackers, and sugar.

Peanut butter, jelly, and whole-wheat bread. Tofu, veggies, and rice. Hummus, veggies, and crackers. There’s an entire world of easy and delicious meals that you can make with just three ingredients.

These meals require minimum grocery shopping and even less prep-work! Eating these balanced meals frequently throughout the day will increase your energy levels and keep you from the vicious cycle of crashing and then overeating.

Walk it out

Many jobs these days require sitting in front of a computer screen for hours on end. Add your 8+ hour work shift at the desk to the time you spend driving, traveling, even just sitting down for dinner. Many professionals admit to spending 10-12 hours per day sitting in a chair. To combat sitting down for the better half of your day, take a break to walk and stretch regularly. Better yet, park further away from work and walk!

Areas to focus on for stretching include quadricep muscles on the top front of your leg, hips, pectoral chest muscles, and latissimus upper-back muscles.  All of them are directly affected by all that sitting and lead to back pain, poor posture, and overall dysfunction in movement patterns.

Eliminate white food

Things like bread, white rice, flour, pasta, crackers, and sugar are just a few examples of “white foods.” But white goes beyond their color, the white signifies that they are largely processed and refined foods made up of chemicals and preservatives. The body doesn’t recognize these substances as food it can use as fuel.

In addition, sugar exists (and is often hidden) in most processed foods. Sugar is a scientifically addictive substance to the brain and activates the same brain centers as heroin. Think about how well you’d perform at work if you showed up each morning on heroin. Being addicted to sugar has long term health consequences, sabotages weight loss efforts, and will decrease energy levels on a daily basis.  Reduced energy translates into diminished cognitive function, reduced creativity, and general malaise.

Increase your effectiveness and productivity by adopting these four lifestyle shifts. You will feel better, look better, and be more powerful in everything you do.  Eating is to fuel your body.  Movement adds strength and mobility to your body.  Good quality sleep repairs and restores your body.  In turn, your body will work for you and allow you to become a more effective, healthier litigator.


Larry Greene is a certified personal trainer with over 14 years experience. He can be reached at Genesis Performance & Fitness in Thousand Oaks, CA.

Too Much Time at the Office is Keeping Lawyers Up at Night

It’s not colleagues, clients or cases that are keeping plaintiff lawyers up at night. The thing that troubles lawyers the most, according to a National Trial Lawyers survey, is spending too much time in the office and not getting enough free time.

Practicing law means skipped dinners, missed family vacations, and widespread burnout, as many attorneys work 60 to 70 hours a week.

It is a “massive, socially unnecessary arms race, wherein lawyers subject each other to torturous amounts of labor just because they can,” wrote Columbia law professor Timothy Wu in The New Yorker.

Top 11 Reasons

In a survey sponsored by The Law Tigers association of motorcycle injury lawyers, plaintiff attorneys were asked: “What keeps you up at night?”

Attorneys could select more than one reason from a list. Sleepless nights are also caused by money, marketing and the 11 following factors:

I spend too much time working / Don’t get enough free time: 36.5%
My firm has fluctuating month-to-month fee revenue: 35.1%
My firm is not generating fees at a rate I desire: 32.4%
My marketing doesn’t generate enough new business: 32.4%
My firm’s cases are taking too long to conclude: 22.9%
My firm’s case load is declining: 21.6%
My firm is handling too many inconsequential cases, resulting in small fees: 21.6%
My firm has unacceptable year-to-year top line revenue: 12.2%
Tort reform and damage caps are hurting my practice: 12.2%
I am unable to dominate a lucrative niche in my market: 8.1%
I don’t enjoy my law practice and want a different niche. 8.1%

Law is one of the most fiercely competitive professions, with 1,300,837 attorneys and 34,000 new lawyers graduating from law school each year. This works out to one lawyer per 248 people in the US.

Law TigersMore reasons keeping lawyers up

21.6% of respondents offered their own sleep-depriving grievances:

  • Advertising lawyers who take too many cases based on the money they spend rather than their actual track record/reputation/competence.
  • Fear that at any time in the future cases will stop coming in and the show will be over.
  • Law practice has become a business rather than a profession.
  • The stress and constant conflict of the trial practice take a toll.
  • Technology will make my practice obsolete in the future.

Half of the respondents said they have a general plaintiff personal injury practice, and several listed specialties, including: auto and motorcycle accident: 17.6%, medical malpractice: 15%, trucking accidents: 10.8%, other (35%) including criminal defense.

Attorneys answering the survey expressed an interest in finding a new niche practice, which included:

  • Nursing home abuse: 9%
  • Business tort: 9%
  • Mass torts: 9%
  • Motorcycle accidents: 7.5%

Most of the respondents (75.3%) said their firm annual revenues were less than $2.5 million per year. 11% said revenues were $2.5 to $5 million, 8.2% said it was $5 to $10 million, and only 5.5% said it was more than $15 million.Most of the respondents (75.3%) said their firm annual revenues were less than $2.5 million per year. 11% said revenues were $2.5 to $5 million, 8.2% said it was $5 to $10 million, and only 5.5% said it was more than $15 million.

The respondents practice in small firms, with 56.1% in firms with 2-10 lawyers, 37% with a single attorney, and only 6.75% in firms with 11 or more attorneys.  Law school graduation year ranged from 1968 to 2016. Most practice in California, Florida, Illinois, New York and Ohio.

The survey of 75 attorneys was conducted online during August 2017.

Special Discount to The Lanier Trial Advocacy Crash Course


Last Chance to take Survey: What Keeps You Up at Night?

Running a trial practice is hard enough, and personal injury attorneys can feel unsettled about running their law practices.

Concerns like “My firm’s case load is declining,” or “I spend too much time working and don’t get enough free time,” or “Tort reform and damage caps are hurting my practice” sometimes preys on attorneys’ minds.

Tell us what keeps you up at night in this one-minute survey sponsored by Law Tigers.

Take the survey at https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/XBQXVST

Often the answer is for an attorney to find a new niche within a personal injury law practice. Tell us if you think satisfaction can be found in a mass torts, environmental, motorcycle accident, criminal/DUI or another niche.

The survey asks a few demographic questions so that we can sort the answers to get interesting results. Then stay tuned — we’ll publish the results right here on The National Trial Lawyers website.

Law Tigers is a professional association of motorcycle injury lawyers who help riders every day. The association consists of member law firms in various states with skilled personal injury lawyers whose mission is to support and promote the well being of motorcyclists. Dedicated to rider safety, awareness, and education, we are committed to the riding community. For more information please contact Jake Kulp at Jake@LawTigers.com.

New Research Sees Astonishing Drop In Win Rates for Federal Plaintiffs

A new study reports that for 10 years starting in 1985, the plaintiff win rate in adjudicated civil cases in federal courts fell almost continuously, from 70 percent to 35 percent.

It remained at a 35 percent win rate for the next 15 years. University of Connecticut law professors Alexandra Lahav and Peter Siegelman say they can’t point to a single reason for the “astonishing” drop in success rates, Reuters reports.

“A significant puzzle remains unsolved,” they write in the draft study.  “We explore, and largely reject, several possible explanations for this surprising finding. Although the reason for the falling win rate remains a mystery, we conclude that courts may need to justify decisions not only in individual cases, but at a systemic level.”

Mass torts are 36% of entire federal civil docket

Interestingly, so many attorneys are starting mass torts practices that the litigation now makes up 36 percent of the entire federal civil docket — up from 16 percent in 2002. No longer the domain of large, national trial law firms, a mass tort practice is an opportunity for any size law firm, according to LawLytics.

The professors say that another obvious explanation for the decline in the win rate is that the mix of adjudicated cases might have shifted away from those that plaintiffs usually win (e.g., student loan) towards those in which plaintiffs rarely prevail (e.g., prisoner or civil rights). Similarly, perhaps the case mix shifted towards circuits where plaintiffs do less well. Or perhaps there are more pro se plaintiffs as a share of total cases, who have always fared less well than those who are represented by counsel.

It’s possible that judicial attitudes toward plaintiffs are changing, the professors told Reuters, but they would need additional data to test the theory. The federal courts don’t release case outcomes for particular judges, information that would be helpful for researchers.

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Law Firms Wake Up To Napping Facilities as a Workplace Solution To Support Sleep

Naps are a cost-effective and efficient solution to allow attorneys who sometimes need to work through the night, to still get some rejuvenating sleep without the expense and time loss of going to a nearby hotel.

By Christopher Lindholst, CEO and Co-founder of MetroNaps

The legal profession is among the most sleep-deprived in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention’s National Health Interview Survey, which ranks lawyers second in the sleepless sweepstakes — even doctors get more rest. Seeking a solution, law firms have now joined the ranks of corporate America in providing napping facilities to support their employees.

Sleep deprivation is an issue nationwide: National Sleep Foundation research found that nearly half of Americans don’t get the rest they need and are affected by sleeplessness in their day-to-day activities. Attorneys are particularly affected, as short deadlines often require working late into the night and on weekends.

Napping facilities as a workplace solution first began in Silicon Valley, where tech wizards famously work long hours and offset the stress and fatigue with imaginative perks. But the benefits of napping are grounded in solid science, so the trend transcended industry boundaries. While Google continues to provide napping pods to staff, so does PWC, Procter & Gamble and Marriott.

And now, so does White & Case LLP, the prestigious law firm founded in 1901 with over 30 offices around the world, which installed a wellness room in its Washington DC office. Comprising several recliners and napping pods provided by Restworks, the dedicated room is located on one of several floors housing the office’s many employees.

Cognitive benefits

The choice to support sleep is a good one: a nap as short as six minutes has been proven to have cognitive benefits. Naps improve alertness, productivity and thereby help mitigate errors. There are wellness benefits also, as naps help reduce stress and regular napping improves long-term health: a landmark Harvard study found a 37% reduction in the risk of cardiovascular disease in those who take at least three naps per week.  That’s good news for firms whose attorneys often face high levels of stress and long hours at a desk. A short nap is a simple way to help.

But naps are also a cost-effective and efficient solution to allow attorneys who sometimes need to work through the night, to still get some rejuvenating sleep without the expense and time loss of going to a nearby hotel. Last minute hotel bookings are usually expensive, easily costing hundreds of dollars and can’t always be billed to a client. But perhaps more importantly, attorneys waste precious time traveling to hotels, checking in, getting settled and checking out again. If a more proximate and convenient solution was available, that time could be spent getting some extra sleep… or working for billable hours.

While naps aren’t a replacement for nighttime sleep, they can be used to help when time sensitive situations arise. Law firms that provides napping facilities for employees to recharge results in healthier, more effective attorneys. And that’s good for everyone — including clients.

Beware the Seven Deadly Sins of Attorney Bios

Katherine Hollar Barnard of Firesign addresses the seven deadly sins that you don’t want to make when you post your attorney biography at forbes.com. “Forget flashy advertising, catchy taglines or firm logo Frisbees. The professional biography is the paramount piece in any attorney’s marketing arsenal.” To read the complete article, please click here.

7 Steps for Effective Direct Examination of Expert Witnesses

witness in courtReproduced from The Expert Institute

While the cross examination of a witness is often viewed as a climatic moment in a trial, the direct examination of a witness, particularly an expert, can be of equal, if not greater importance to the outcome of a case. Knowing how to effectively conduct a direct examination of an expert witness can set the tone for the entire trial. The following are seven helpful tips to ensure that your direct examination is a success.

1. Choose an Expert: The Earlier the Better

Once it is decided that an expert witness will testify at trial, finding the most qualified, experienced, and professional expert should be prioritized. By definition, experts are brought into a case because their knowledge and skillset can assist the trier of fact in ways that lay witness testimony cannot. As enumerated in Rule 702 of the Federal Rules of Evidence, experts are to use their “scientific, technical, or other specialized knowledge” to help the trier of fact in understanding the evidence or determining a fact in issue. Expert testimony must also be based on sufficient facts and reliable principles and methods. Because experts are versed in knowledge that is most likely foreign to the jury, it is critical to spend as much time as possible with your expert prior to trial. The crucial trial preparation stage will be less arduous if the expert has already been a part of the litigation team since the inception of the case. A quality direct examination can be just as difficult to craft as a cross examination, so the more time the attorney and expert have to prepare, the more effective the testimony will be.

While it is obviously necessary to hire an expert who possesses the requisite level of expertise in its particular field, it is also important to examine the expert’s demeanor. Oftentimes, juries assess credibility by the witness’ behavioral patterns, expressions, and voice. Therefore, it is important to hire an expert as soon as possible so his presentation can be assessed.

2. Adequately Present the Expert’s Qualifications

Typically, direct examination begins by establishing the expert’s qualifications. The first few questions about the expert’s professional background should demonstrate to the judge that the expert possesses the requisite qualifications to testify while also showing the jury that the expert is capable of rendering accurate opinions. Depending on the practice area, an expert may testify as to formal education, work background, on-the-job training, or other credentials. It is helpful if an expert has both academic and practical experience, as it provides a more well-rounded picture of the expert’s background. While not a necessary tactic, it can be beneficial to humanize the expert on direct examination by asking questions that help the expert appear three-dimensional to the jury. Tying in anecdotes about the expert, or mentioning her hobbies during the introductory questions may increase the chance that the expert will be viewed as someone relatable, and by extension, trustworthy.

3. Use Everyday Language When Explaining Complex Ideas

The main purpose of an expert is to help the jury better understand the facts at issue by explaining technical information in an easily digestible format. To help your expert achieve this goal, the direct examination must comprehensively flush out any complex or confusing testimony. It does not matter whether an expert is the most qualified in her field or if she presents indisputable opinions.

If a jury does not understand the testimony, it will be of little use. Avoid legalese or scientific terminology by substituting those words or phrases with everyday language. When explaining a complex procedure, the expert should analogize each step with something that is easier for non-technical jurors to understand. For example, a medical expert testifying about heart surgery can analogize the unblocking of a clogged artery to the opening of a lane during a traffic jam. The goal is to ensure that the jury fully understands the expert and is able to apply the testimony to their own decisions when rendering a verdict.

4. Elicit Testimony Within the Expert’s Scope

While it can be tempting to question an expert on a broad range of matters, it is important to stay within the constraints of the governing rules of evidence. In federal courts (and state courts that have adopted such evidentiary rules), expert testimony must be both reliable and relevant. Likewise, an expert may base an opinion on facts or data that the expert has been made aware of or personally observed.  An expert need not disclose all facts and data on which the direct testimony relies, but the witness may be questioned about those facts on cross examination. If an expert’s opinion is based on questionable data or unreliable methodology, such weaknesses can be exposed on cross examination. Therefore, the direct examination should be as forthright as possible in order to defend against adversarial surprise attacks.

5. Utilize Demonstrative Evidence to Illustrate the Testimony

Demonstrative evidence, that is, evidence addressed directly to the senses without the intervention of testimony, can be presented in a variety of forms such as photographs, diagrams, models, illustrations, audio recordings, or in-court experiments. Demonstrative evidence impresses a jury’s senses, and thus, provides an additional means of evaluating the facts of the case.  The main purpose of demonstrative aids is to help the jury more fully understand the factual issues while also breaking the monotony of oral testimony. The specific type of demonstrative aid used is dependent upon the particular expert testimony, however incorporating such evidence can benefit both the style and substance of the direct examination.

6. Address Any Credibility Issues Up Front

No direct examination or expert witness is perfect. Addressing any credibility issues at the onset of direct examination can be beneficial in two ways. First, by questioning the expert on any perceived weaknesses, it takes the sting out of the cross examination and precludes opposing counsel from appearing to have “caught” the expert in a lie or misrepresentation. Secondly, it shows the jury that the expert is honest, which in many cases, can bolster the expert’s credibility.

During cross examination, opposing counsel will often ask an expert’s fees, in order to show that the fees are exorbitant in relation to the expert’s work. To preemptively defend against such a point, a direct examination can include a brief line of questioning about the time and effort the expert put into the case. For example, the expert can cite the materials reviewed and experiments conducted and give an estimate of the time expended. In addition, an expert may have put other professional commitments on hold to prepare for the trial.  The goal is to establish the expert as a credible professional who is fairly compensated for his work.

7. Conclude the Testimony By Summarizing the Case Theory

Ideally, the case theory should intertwine with all aspects of the trial. The direct examination may begin with more scientific, complex ideas, but once the expert thoroughly explains and breaks down his opinions, the testimony should ultimately mirror the attorney’s case theory as told in an opening statement or summation. Experts should be able to reiterate the case theory, while also maintaining their own voice. If a direct examination is successful in helping the jury understand the scientific or technical facts of the case, then the jury should be able to apply those facts when deciding the ultimate issue. By summarizing the testimony at the conclusion of the direct examination, the expert is showing the jury a new point of view while still emphasizing the theory of the case.