There is a bit of theater in live trial work, some showmanship. However, it's mostly hard work, preparation, good instincts, and knowledge of the law. But people skills are important. Most successful trial lawyers have a quality that helps them make strangers feel comfortable. Understanding witnesses and how to approach them has a lot to do with your success. While you're not necessarily working a room, you are selling a part of your own credibility in every case. The fact that jurors react positively to you, that they think you're reasonably intelligent, that you're a nice guy who they might have a cup of coffee with, definitely helps.
You often find yourself in high-pressure, maybe terrifying, situations in court - how does humor help alleviate some of that gravity?
I know of no other profession that carries with it the intense pressure, where everything you say is taken down, and how you react or fail to react will impact the quality of someone else's life. The seriousness is sometimes overwhelming. As I've gotten older, I've realized humor can be used very effectively. My sense of humor gives me an escape hatch from what would be such overwhelming pressure it would drive you crazy.
Why have you gone out of your way to be generous to media people?
In the Puff Daddy case, we were under a gag order during the trial and really couldn't talk. I'd come to court and there'd be 50 camera-crew people outside in the dead of winter, and I got to know a lot of them. I'd sometimes bring them donuts and coffee. It was more out of friendship and not looking to cultivate them. On the other hand, if you have friends in the media who will not go out of their way to slam you if given the choice, it's not a bad situation.
Is it wise to nurture the media?
I think I am a media-savvy person who has learned how to effectively deal with them. I've really had no choice but to learn how, especially with the notoriety of some of my clients. Great exposure and scrutiny come with these cases. I've learned the media can be a friend or a terrible enemy.
Absolutely. More than half of my time, I work on cases that nobody ever reads about. It's keeping people from being charged. It's convincing the government that either a crime was not committed, or, if one was technically committed, they will lose if they proceed. So we'll try to work out a civil resolution. That's some of the most successful work I've undertaken. There are about a hundred well-known people whom I've represented in investigations that were closed before they resulted in criminal prosecution. And nobody really knows they were on the verge of being destroyed.