Source of article The Jury Room - Keene Trial Consulting.
Over the 10 years we have been researching, writing, and publishing The Jury Room blog, we have also been traveling coast to coast, applying what we have been writing about on an amazing array of cases. We have come to the realization that we are tired. And this is my last blog post. Rita will bat clean-up with her final reflections after my own.
I don’t want to kid anyone— this blog was Rita Handrich’s idea, her vision, her style, and her achievement. Over 98% of the blogs were researched and written by Rita, and I added my 2 cents after the heavy lifting was done. She was the one who kept us attuned with the societal trends and social science research about everything that touched American culture. Because it all finds its way into the legal system, one way or the other. She kept our saw sharp, and branded KTC as a resource for information that the trial teams simply didn’t have. And if we didn’t know something already, she knew where to find it quickly, and added it to our knowledge base. A couple of colleagues at the American Society of Trial Consultants told us that when they needed to draft a presentation for CLE programs, they often started their research at our blog, since we had already done the legwork. Well, it was Rita that did the legwork.
I formed Keene Trial Consulting in 1994, after practicing as a clinical psychologist for about 10 years (including several as an expert witness), and have spent the last 25 in litigation consulting. I entered this field knowing that I tend to be a bit on the restless side, and become bored pretty easily. My career, reflected in the 1000+ blog posts we have published over the decade of the Jury Room, has been a stimulating and creative challenge from the first case to the last. That first case involved a business dispute, working for Beyoncé Knowles during her Destiny’s Child years, and the last one was an international trade secret dispute focused on offshore oil and gas in South Asia. Crazy.
I have had the privilege of working with great lawyers and fascinating cases. Why I was given the opportunity to work in this field is a simple miracle, but I have been grateful for the opportunity every day. Since this is my last blog post, I would like to express my thanks to a number of people who gave me that chance and taught me what I needed, permitting me to bridge my former career as a psychologist with this new and fascinating universe. In 1994 I was invited by a social friend who I knew to be a fine trial lawyer and mediator, Karl Bayer, to look at video tapes of a focus group. I replied “Sure! What’s a focus group?” He told me to watch the video and I’d figure it out. I did, and I did. He asked me to join a meeting with the moderator of that group.
That single meeting made all of the difference. The moderator of the focus group I watched was Mark McKinnon, a media strategist with Public Strategies in Austin (later Hill+Knowlton), media consultant for George W. Bush, and now most famously as the star and executive producer of “The Circus” (the great reality television show about US politics broadcast on Showtime). For a year, Mark and Public Strategies called me whenever their phone rang with a request for litigation research. They taught me the ropes, helped me with logistics, and introduced me to clients. After a year, as clients were starting to call me directly, Mark wished me well and told me to let him know if I needed anything. His generosity and kindness gave me the opportunity for the most interesting career I had ever imagined. I am indebted to him more than he can appreciate.
When I look back on 25 years, the number of people to whom I owe gratitude and appreciation is long. But as always, there are a few who stand out. An early major client was Steve Laird in Fort Worth, a terrific plaintiff lawyer and great friend. He not only provided me an opportunity to learn from him and work on his cases, he introduced me to a universe of lawyers through ATLA (now AAJ) and the Texas Trial Law Association.
Around that time, Tommy Jacks, an extraordinary Austin lawyer, invited me to work with him and his partner, Richard Mithoff, on a very significant medical negligence case. I didn’t know enough at the time to realize it, but these two lawyers are among the finest Texas has produced. Richard is simply a brilliant trial lawyer, and I had the privilege of working on all of his trials for over 20 years. The privilege of watching one of the best trial lawyers in the United States over 20 years and more than 85 cases would for many be a career in itself. But because of his sterling reputation, other lawyers would call me because I was “Richard’s consultant”. I suspect that they wondered what in the world I had to contribute to Richard, as he was famous well before I joined his team. I also wonder, but mostly I am grateful. He says that we raised each others’ games. I can only hope so.
When tort reform swept through Texas in 2004, greatly reducing the number of jury trials (especially in catastrophic personal injury cases), I asked my attorney clients for a favor. I asked them to introduce me to their friends that worked on commercial litigation. At the same time, some, like Richard Mithoff, had themselves begun doing more commercial litigation, and brought me along. Thus opened a phase of my career with years of work on disputes including Enron, sub-prime mortgages, international trade disputes, aviation disasters, trademarks, patents, and trade secrets, and almost everything under the commercial sun. It also brought along class-action work, qui tam, arbitrations, and national cases. It was challenging, and never boring.
I have had the pleasure of mentoring a substantial number of young consultants, and served as a board member and President of the American Society of Trial Consultants in 2008-2009. But I never wanted a large firm and actually didn’t want employees. I started out as a solo practitioner, with my wife (a CPA) providing all of the back-office support. In 2000, I made a game-changing decision to hire Rita Handrich as my associate. It was the single best business decision I have ever made. She has worked creatively, intelligently, tirelessly, and flexibly for nearly 20 years. And somehow, she has been cheerful throughout. Rita is brilliant, and her contributions to the success of Keene Trial Consulting cannot be overstated. As a wonderful person, a great sounding-board, and a gifted psychologist and consultant, she has challenged me to do better. And she has been tolerant of my moods under stress, which occasionally made me ‘difficult’. Thank you, Rita.
My final thank you is to my family, who paid the price for my years of travel in support of a career I loved, but which took me away from home frequently. This is a tough career for happy families. We made it intact, but it has been a big strain. Sally has been my best friend and partner for 38 years, and Keene Trial Consulting would never have approached what it became without her contribution and encouragement. I spent years hustling for work. Dropping social plans for last-minute work plans. Birthdays, anniversaries–for attorneys and consultants who read this, I urge you to weigh the price of the success, not just the price of failure. I am incredibly fortunate that Sally and I have made ‘the finish line’ still in love with each other, but we all know scores of good people who were unable to balance the work with maintaining the loving connection with family. And that price for many was huge. Take care of yourself, take care of your loved ones.
I am retiring, looking forward to a new life in Asheville, NC. I may get restless again, but will be looking for new outlets. And new views, this time of the Blue Ridge Mountains instead of the Texas Hill Country. Thank you, readers, for your interest in our blog, and your interest in social science and the law.
We wish you happiness in all you pursue.