In addition to refreshing times with family and friends, the holidays often provide opportunity to reflect on the year just completed and to set goals for the year to come. I have thoroughly enjoyed my first year as the CCCE Program Coordinator, and I have benefited tremendously from the wisdom of many colleagues and friends. Looking ahead to 2013, I appreciate the perceptive advice in Rick Friedman’s excellent book On Becoming a Trial Lawyer. A quick read, the book is beneficial for all types of legal professionals, from “real” trial attorneys and paralegals, to “mock” trial attorneys and even “mock” witnesses.
One lesson particularly caught my attention, as Friedman discussed a common topic in an uncommon fashion. This insight could be termed the “peril of perfectionism.” Friedman rightfully emphasizes that effective preparation for trial requires hard work and long hours of intensive effort. And, of course, whether preparing for trial, or for an event such as the mock trial regional competition, it is important to work conscientiously to secure a successful outcome. We all know that perfection cannot be attained, but we feel a responsibility to leave “no stone unturned” in our zealous efforts to represent our clients, support our employers, or prepare to compete in mock trial.
Yet, if we are not careful, our diligent and careful preparations can produce expectations that inevitably will NOT be met‚ and the ensuing disappointment can lead to needless disaster. However diligently we prepare, unforeseen events will occur‚ both those in our favor, and ones harmful to our case. Evidence will be admitted or excluded unexpectedly, witnesses will give surprising answers on cross-examination, or the limited time available (in a mock trial) for the case-in-chief will be mismanaged, making it difficult for the final witness to relate important facts. As Friedman notes, “Every minute of trial presents an opportunity for the unexpected to present itself. . . . Every move makes you painfully aware of the gap between what you expected the trial to be and what it actually is. Your self-conscious awareness of that gap is more likely to be your undoing than whatever it is you think has gone wrong.”
If our expectations of perfection prevent us from realistically perceiving and adapting to the new situation, we will not present our case or direct our event effectively. We must learn to let go of our unrealistic ideals to address “what is” rather than bemoaning what “might have been.” The fluid nature of the proceedings at trial‚ both “real” and “mock,” makes trial advocacy simultaneously nerve-wracking and exhilarating. While I, as the CCCE Program Coordinator, do not experience this roller-coaster to the same degree as a trial attorney, overseeing the statewide mock trial competition also requires flexibility and a cheerful willingness to recognize and adapt to changing circumstances. Indeed, the variety of the work, and the ability to impact individual lives in a very positive way, are similarly challenging and rewarding. As I face the inevitable last-minute “crises” of the coming year, I hope to meet them with the same calm decisiveness, good humor, and wisdom that characterize so many of my colleagues at the CCCE and in the mock trial program.
We appreciate your investment in students across North Carolina. And if you haven’t yet registered to join us at a regional competition on Feb. 9, 2013, please go to [https://ncmocktrial.org/get-involved%5D to see how you can get involved! We need judges and attorneys to serve as presiding judges and scoring jurors, and paralegals and law students to help behind the scenes. We hope you will make it one of your goals for 2013 to join us!