Sunday, September 13, 2009

TLC: A More Nuanced View

Quite a few folks have sent me emails privately commenting on the Trial Lawyers College pieces that have appeared here. What follows is one that was sent by someone who wishes to remain anonymous. The writer worries that if their identity were known, friends would shun the writer. That seems sad, but passions run high at Kamp Kool Aid.

In any case, I found these comments among the best I have received. I pass them along for your edification. For what it is worth, I agree wholeheartedly with this assessment. There is much of value going in Wyoming. But all that glitter might conceal more than a little fool's gold.

"Although I have been a supporter of the Trial Lawyers College, I have serious concerns about the school and its future.

"It almost seems that the Trial Lawyer’s College comes in two parts. Part one is a trial practice academy and probably the best that I have ever seen. Part two is much more difficult to describe, but it is almost the equivalent of a religious conversion, with the Gerry Spence method of trying cases being offered and accepted as the one true way. It is with part two that I have serious issues for therein lies hero worship, the destruction of individuality and the development of the so-called TLC cult.

"In the early years, this atmosphere was offset by diversity among the members of the educational staff. Indeed, the first faculties of the Trial Lawyer’s College consisted of a “who’s who” of some of the best trial lawyers in America. Each offered his or her unique strategies and insights into the art of trial practice.

"But by the tenth reunion of the college in 2004, the dynamics of TLC had changed. The faculty from the early years was pretty much gone, replaced by former students of the school itself. While these were all good lawyers in their own right, there now seemed to be something almost incestuous about the methodology. Let me say it this way: by 2004 the Trial Lawyer’s College did not seem to be a breeding ground for open dialogue and alternative theories of trial practice. It seemed to be more about teaching established doctrine.

"I have the brochure for the first session of the Trial Lawyers College from 1994. One section of the brochure poses the question: WHO WILL TEACH? The answer reads, “We teach each other at Trial Lawyer’s College. We learn and grow from being colleagues in the great adventure of learning by doing – participants and trial masters alike. You yourself will both teach and learn.”

"Another section of the brochure asks: WILL WE OFFER A DEGREE? And the answer reads, “No. A degree suggests that you have attended one of those institutions from which you have learned a good deal that you must unlearn if you are to become a successful trial lawyer for the people. You can tell your friends and clients you attended the Trial Lawyer’s College and, if you want, we will certify you as one of the very few who have attended our college.”

"What happened to those promises? And why does the college now conduct a graduation ceremony and offer the equivalent of a degree that can also be obtained by attending the requisite number of regional programs?

"The Trial Lawyer's College also seems to breed dependency. Whereas once there was only the month-long program at the ranch, there are now regional programs, graduate programs and advanced programs. The birds are never expected to leave the nest.

"I don’t think there is any better training ground for trial lawyers than the Trial Lawyer s College. But it is running on but a fraction of its potential. Oh what it could be."