Seeking Quality in the Practice of Law
by DOUGLAS O. LINDER and NANCY LEVIT (Oxford University Press, 2013)

The Good Lawyer

About The Good Lawyer


Introductory Note

The Good Lawyer is Courageous

The Good Lawyer Has a Passion for Justice

The Good Lawyer Values Others in the Legal Community

The Good Lawyer Uses Both Intuition and Deliberative Thinking

The Good Lawyer Thinks realistically About the Future

The Good Lawyer Serves the True Interests of Clients

The Good Lawyer Has Ample Willpower

The Good Lawyer is Persuasive

Seeking Quality


Random Facts

The Happy Lawyer

Excerpt from Chapter 2:
The Good Lawyer is Empathetic


           Your first night, sitting in the Big Barn at Thunderhead Ranch, you might hear a story Spence has told a hundred times.  It’s a story about the wisdom of Spence’s Uncle Slim.  Spence tells about standing at a corral with his Uncle Slim when the cowboy breaks into a laugh that sounds “like the end note of a bull elk’s bugle.” Slim points to a dude in the corral trying to saddle a beaten-up nag with a fancy parade saddle, made of black leather with silver spangles.  Slim turns to Gerry and says, “Ya can’t get nowhere with a thousand-dollar saddle on a ten-dollar horse.” For Spence, the thousand-dollar saddle is the expensive, but not particularly helpful, legal education that most lawyers who come to TLC have had.  They are the horses.  He might end his introductory talk with words like, “So tomorrow we begin.  We will work on the horse.”

            The next morning, as you enter the cookhouse for breakfast, you see posted on the day’s schedule a single word, “Psychodrama.”  Psychodrama, you will discover, is a therapy technique in which participants act out traumatic events from their own lives.  The technique was developed by Jacob Moreno, a Romanian psychiatrist who was inspired by the richness of children’s play.  Moreno promoted psychodrama as a means of regaining the lost spontaneity of childhood and learning to run free from the hobbling impediments of the past.

            Although psychodrama fell out of favor among therapists, Gerry Spence saw in the technique a way to help lawyers get in touch with themselves. In his first course in 1994, psychodrama was all about “working on the horse,” and had no application for trial preparation.  Through the use of spontaneous plays in which lawyers pretended to interact with people not actually present, and acted out traumatic events in their lives, Spence took lawyers on a voyage of self-discovery.  It seemed to serve its intended purpose, but as one former student pointed out, left a lot of lawyers wondering, “What the heck was that?” Spence’s answer would be, “You cannot be credible without first being honest about the self.” At today’s TLC, psychodrama for self-discovery has a second use: to remake the saddle into something lighter, more suitable for the horse that will wear it, than the fancy saddle provided by a law school education.  Psychodrama becomes a way to share the pain, and gain insight into, the lives of clients and, more importantly, tell their stories to jurors and judges in ways that reveal emotional truths about them....