Ken, you’ve been on the TLC faculty for almost 20 years now! Can you share with us your thoughts about the role of the psychodramatic methods in learning about and developing the story of your cases?
Well, like Gerry is famous for saying, “It always begins with you”; employing the psychodramatic methods gives me this set of antennae that automatically come out and they are not only looking at me, they are looking at others. By truly using and understanding the power of role reversal and mirroring, I can better understand the true story of my cases, and I get to feel things on a deeper level. We all want to look good. We don’t want to look weak or intimidated. We always want to try to control things and that’s part of the problem with our training at law school, it tries to teach us to control. But being a trial lawyer is a profession that needs feeling and caring, and we are not taught this in law school. And then we wonder why we have problems, either on a personal level or with juries or judges. So Psychodrama really helps us understand ourselves, and others, so that these problems are more manageable.
Is it possible to learn the Trial Lawyers College methods without paying attention to Psychodrama?
I don’t think so. Psychodrama is such an integral part of TLC’s methods. You can go to any CLE course to learn how to cross examine and such, and you can win cases, and you can do great. But Trial Lawyers College foundation in psychodrama gives you the means to be human and have fun — and still win. When I was first introduced to it at a seminar, we did some psychodramatic exercises and of course I thought, “I don’t need this, this is weird. Just teach me how to win the case, Gerry. Just teach me how to win big.” Then in a small group exercise, I got up and did a voir dire and the instructor asked the jury, “What do you think of this guy?” And they said, “This guy is a jerk, he is self-absorbed. He’s a creep.” She asked me how that made me feel and of course I said it made me feel terrible. She said, “Well, tell the jury that.” So I was open with the jury about my feelings and my vulnerability and then they said things like, “He’s great. I like this guy.” Right then and there I found out the power of vulnerability, and Psychodrama teaches us that there is great power in vulnerability. You have the case half won just by being real and open and honest. That can be hard to do because we are not trained that way in law school. Our methods help so much when you’re trying to discover the story of what happened because that’s what we are really doing in the courtroom, we’re telling a story and using the witnesses and the skills we have to do that and it’s very effective.
What would you say to someone who just wants to learn the trial skills but doesn’t want anything to do with Psychodrama?
Go get a book and read it and good luck. Go to a CLE and listen to somebody tell you how to do it and then they will try and steal your case. Don’t get me wrong — there are a lot of great lawyers who have never gone to the Trial Lawyers College and they are skilled and talented and they are doing great things. But if you really want to be a complete trial lawyer, I don’t think there is any other program like the Trial Lawyers College. Take a seminar, put your toe in the water. There is so much love and caring and support that comes from Trial Lawyers College. If you want to learn and be as good as you can be, at least explore the world of Psychodrama through Trial Lawyers College. An important part of TLC is that the people are constantly learning. They are always trying new things — we often consider the work we do at the College like a laboratory.
Besides Psychodrama, what do you think sets TLC apart from other CLE programs?
It’s really an art form. It’s that artistic part of ourselves and what we do when we are on our feet in a courtroom and preparing to get in the courtroom. We are taught in law school to be engineers but we’re not engineers, we are artists and we have to accept that and try different things. There is so much beauty and so much power in each of us that we don’t experiment with because there are norms. The method is always evolving. I’ve been involved with Trial Lawyers College for 20 years and what I learned when I first started is different than what we are doing now. It’s better now. People are constantly having ideas and that’s exciting. If you’re representing a human being, you’ve got to come at it in a more artistic style and let that art flow.
There is an artist in every one of us. Some people have a gift of singing. Some people have a knack for painting. Some people are poets. As trial lawyers, we are artists, there is no question about it, and it’s fun! Sometimes it’s hysterically funny, sometimes it’s terribly sad, but it’s a way to feel and to express and accept the art form of what we do. There’s no question about it, it is art. It’s intuitive and it’s instinctive and it just comes out of you.
The bottom line is the Trial Lawyers College method is freeing. I just feel free. I don’t feel constrained, I don’t feel like I have to look a certain way or act a certain way. I just get up there and do my best and know there are going to be people who don’t like me. I feel so much more comfortable in the courtroom now than ever because I have permission to be human. It’s okay if things go bad, you spill water, a witness doesn’t exactly hit it the way you want, your cross examination is less than stellar. You give yourself permission to stumble a little bit more than before. Don’t get me wrong, you still have to absolutely be on your game, but things go bad in the courtroom sometimes, no matter how much you prepare. So you have to be open to it and understand that it’s going to happen and sometimes the stars won’t line up. But sometimes they will.
I will just leave you with this: Trial Lawyers College can be as impactful in your life as you want it to be. You can go to a seminar and check it out or you can avoid it. But if it’s a fear of exploring yourself that worries you, I would say for you to embrace that and dive in. It’s normal and we all feel it in one way or another. The benefits are immeasurable. So do it, have fun and it will change you for the better. It’s good stuff and there are great people there. That’s my final closing argument.
About Ken Turek:
Ken Turek (TLC 1998) is a plaintiff civil trial lawyer from San Diego, California and has served on TLC’s faculty team since 1999. Using TLC methods, Ken has obtained several multi-million dollar jury verdicts in a broad range of areas including personal injury, fraud, breach of contract, unsafe housing and professional malpractice. He also often co-counsels and in 2015 teamed to obtain seven and eight figure trial results in head injury, wrongful death and child molestation cases. Ken is a frequent national speaker on courtroom and personal success strategies for trial lawyers in large part drawn from challenges in his career, and he recently created www.wholelawyer.com and the Whole Lawyer podcast to help trial lawyers. Ken has received three Outstanding Trial Lawyer awards from the Consumer Attorneys Association of San Diego. Since 1987, his peers have also awarded him the highest rating for legal skills and ethics in the national Martindale-Hubbell Law Directory (AV Preeminent 5.0 out of 5) and named him a Southern California Super Lawyer annually since 2007. His hobby is performing stand-up comedy and his written comedy has been published in The New York Times. He was recently awarded the honorable Pursuit of Justice Award from the American Bar Association.