I wrote last month about Laurence Gonzales’s Deep Survival: Who Lives, Who Dies, and Why and promised “much more later.” It occurs to me that the start of scavenging Gonzales’s work for criminal trial lawyers has to be relating survival to a criminal trial.
When Gonzales is talking about survival situations, he’s not referring only to life-threatening situations but, more broadly, to stressful situations.
Some people function better under stress, such as professional golfers, fighter pilots, elite mountain climbers, motorcycle racers, and brain surgeons. And some emotional responses are more easily controlled than others.
Elite performers, as they’re sometimes called, seek out the extreme situation that make them perform well and feel more alive. At the other end of the scale are people who don’t want any excitement at all. It takes all kinds. But it’s easy to demonstrate that many people (estimates run as high as 90 percent), when put under stress, are unable to think clearly or solve simple problems. They get rattled. They panic. They freeze.
Deep Survival is about balancing emotion and intellect in stressful situations.
In response to my post last month, prosecutor SCTexas (who think’s it’s all about him) wrote, “Why do I get the feeling that we are about to see a post telling us all how a criminal-defense lawyer is much better suited to survival than, oh I don’t know, a prosecutor?”
We aren’t about to see such a post. Trials are extreme situations. Trial lawyers seek out trials. Good trial lawyers — prosecutors or defense lawyers — are elite performers.
“But,” writes Gonzales, “even elite performers are not immune to the effects of stress.” Quoting Malcolm Gladwell, he writes, “Choking is about thinking too much. Panic is about thinking too little.” The best trial lawyers strike the best balance between choking and panic.
If you try cases or otherwise seek out stressful situations, get the book. Read it.
Much more later.