Book Review: The View from the First Chair: What Every Trial Lawyer Really Needs to Know

Grayson, Martin L. The View from the First Chair: What Every Trial Lawyer Really Needs to Know. LawyerAvenue Press, 2009. ($45, 176 pages, Paperback: 978-0-940675-66-7).

With his 25 years of litigation experience on maritime, oil & gas, transportation, insurance, and corporate cases, Grayson is a seasoned litigator intent on mentoring associates interested or working in litigation through his work, View from the First Chair: What Every Trial Lawyer Really Needs to Know.



View from the First Chair is a good start for the new associate or law student looking for an easy read on trial work and exposes the realities of being the first or second chair for a trial. It is a succinct beginner’s guide with only 147 pages of actual content (excluding the appendix and introduction) and generous line spaces.  Key tips are highlighted to reinforce their relevance in actual practice and the text reads as though Grayson is speaking with the reader in his office offering advice.

The simple table of contents moves along with the timeline of a trial, giving the reader a sense of what to do, how to report to clients, and other key information that is not taught in law school, but by experience.  With its conversational tone, the book is a virtual mentor for associates new to the world of litigation and gives the associate a sense of the mental constitution required for trial preparation.  The chapters are not too long and don’t bore as though Grayson is factoring in the demands on an associate’s time.  There aren’t any footnotes, but occasionally a link is printed on the bottom of the page advertising the author’s or the publisher’s websites.

Since the text assumes the reader is an associate or law student, it doesn’t focus on caselaw, but rather on practice tips and real world examples.  Some of his examples detail dramatic interactions with opposing counsel, unexpected witness testimony, and highlight the importance of having organized case files to maximize efficiency.  Furthermore, Grayson expands on the psychology of being a trial lawyer and the need to be professional in all circumstances to promote one’s client’s case.

The book does not have an index, although it does have an appendix with a sample report to the client that readers can adapt for their own purposes.  There are examples of letters, memos, and reports scattered in the chapters to illustrate the author’s emphasis on concise, clear legal writing.

I recommend this book for law firm libraries that specialize in litigation as it details common sense for trial lawyers and it would be a good read for a new associate to begin to understand his or her profession.

Reviewed by Esther Cho, Reference/Government Documents Librarian, Loyola Law School.

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October 2009

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