Trial Superstitions

Four trial lawyers find that a little luck never hurt

Published in 2019 Northern California Super Lawyers Magazine

Debra Bogaards

What: I always wear my same blue suit for both opening statement and closing argument, because I want to subliminally send a message to the jury that the road map I gave them in opening, I proved with the evidence during trial. By mirroring my clothing, I want to remind them that what I promised them came true; I am standing before them again, this last time, having made good on my promises. 

When/how did it start: This superstition started in my very first trial. I just believe that navy is crisp and projects honesty. It happened organically.

Does it work?: It’s subtle, but it has worked well for me. Or maybe it just gives me the confidence that I need to win.

 

Miles Cooper

What: Finding a heads-up penny, particularly during trial.

When/how did it start: I had the benefit of spending 17 years practicing with Cynthia McGuinn, an amazing trial lawyer. At some point during our trials, we’d find a heads-up penny. And we generally did pretty well. While I did not consider myself superstitious when I first started practicing, it reached the point where, if we did not find a penny, I’d start getting concerned.

Does it work?: I’ve found a heads-up penny at some point during every successful trial. But I’ve also found heads-up pennies during some of the cases I’ve lost. That said, I’d rather have a penny in my pocket (that I found during trial) when the verdict gets read than not.

 

J. Kevin Morrison

What: For the first day of every trial, I wear my grandfather’s cuff links.

When/how did it start: I didn’t start wearing French cuffs until 10 years or so ago, and started wearing them then. My grandfather was humble, loving, and had a deep faith, and I always find great comfort knowing I am wearing something he wore. I take solace—in the stressful atmosphere of trial, whether it is picking a jury or going over critical pretrial motions—that he is with me.

Does it work?: I haven’t won all of the cases I tried when I wear them, but I know that they make me feel better about everything.

 

Shaana Rahman

What: I always carry the same old composition notebook with me to every trial, that has a photo of Joan Jett pasted on the back cover. 

When/how did it start: As a kid, Joan Jett was everything my friends and I wanted to be: fierce and take-no-prisoners. So when I was preparing for my first trial, and feeling pretty nervous, an old “What Would Joan Jett Do?” T-shirt inspired me.  I figured if I needed a shot of fierceness during trial, I could just flip to the back page of my notebook.

Does it work?: I won that trial and have never tried a case without it. 

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