When did you first come to the Trial Lawyers College?
My first ever TLC course was last year’s Psychodrama for Lawyers seminar in June. I’m in practice with my uncle, Dan O’Neill — just the two of us. He’s a graduate of the Seven-Step Program through TLC. Shortly after obtaining my bar license in December 2014, one of the first things he told me was: “I’m sending you up to the ranch.” So, I signed up. I had only been in practice for six months when I did it. It wasn’t like I had much of a choice. I thought it would be akin to having broccoli shoved down my throat as a kid. It couldn’t have been more the opposite.
What changes did you notice after attending the Psychodrama Workshop?
I was definitely more in tune with myself. Being the most junior attorney in a situation with accomplished, sophisticated, and uniquely talented trial lawyers all in one setting — it’s intimidating. Especially for me since I didn’t have the trial experience. I quickly realized that I have something to offer them just like they have so much to offer me. I stopped seeing them as lawyers and I started seeing them as human beings. Every time I’ve been to a Trial Lawyers College event (I just finished my fifth seminar), I come back with not only an excitement to incorporate the skills into our practice but also with a new found confidence in myself as a person, being able to talk to other people, and being able to relate to other people. The barriers that we are confined by in society are broken down when you go to a Trial Lawyers College seminar. It’s a truly life changing experience. It has allowed me to see life through a different lens.
What was it like at the Psychodrama for Lawyers Workshop?
When I first got up to the Ranch, I had a plan. I recall thinking “I’m just going to move my chair about 4 inches back of the main circle and refrain from making eye contact with anyone. I’m not going to raise my hand, not going to participate and I’m just going to kind of take in what I can from here but I don’t want to be a part of this!” That all went out the window in about 45 minutes. People were giving their hearts and I felt compelled to share mine. I’ve never felt more connected to a room of strangers in such a short period of time. It crystallized for me why Psychodrama is the basis for all the trial skills you learn at the Trial Lawyers College. The Psychodrama for Lawyers workshop is so different than the others because it’s longer and it’s only psychodrama. Each day was intense. I would go to bed at the end of the day exhausted, but completely content. The dramas and sharing stirred not only the emotions of the room, but they stirred emotions within myself. I invested in my classmates, they invested in me, and we forged a bond. The Ranch is a special place because it’s out in the middle of nowhere without distraction. It’s picturesque. It’s serene. I couldn’t ask for a better setting. People are really present. You don’t get that at other seminars.
What is a day at the Psychodrama Workshop like?
Most of the people get up early and hike up Spence Mountain. It’s a perfect way to clear your head for the day. You don’t have to say a word or you can talk with the person next to you. Everybody is out there doing their thing, getting ready for the day. Then you head back to the ranch for breakfast. The food was incredible. Being on a Ranch up in Wyoming I figured I was going to be eating Sloppy Joes and hot dogs – but this was supreme cuisine! No joke, consistently some of the best food I’ve ever had. And that was the general consensus of the group. The food alone was something worth writing home about. Then we began attending the psychodrama sessions. I was with Kathy St. Clair most of my entire Psychodrama Workshop. She’s incredibly talented. She expertly gauged the temperature of the room, to the point where when somebody got up to do their drama, she knew whether that person was ready for it. I took back something from every drama. Everyone had an opportunity to do a drama. The students give, give and give. They’re doing it because they are trying to make their lives better for themselves, for their families, for their clients. I figured I’m not married, I don’t have kids, I’m not divorced, I’m a 30-year-old kid. I have a loving and understanding girlfriend. I’m so happy, what do I have to offer these people? But I quickly realized that the emotions that they were talking about were the same emotions that I go through. When I was placed into this really safe space and I felt like, “You know, I could do this, I want to do this. I want to get in there and I want to see what this is about. I want to give what I’ve been receiving.” And it wouldn’t have happened without the trust that was built between the people in the group. I felt like I could jump in there without feeling judged. I knew that what I poured out was not only going to benefit me, but might spark a fire in someone else. I learned how to connect, the power of raw emotion, and I began understanding exactly what it is that Trial Lawyers College teaches.
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