Our senior lawyer, Lee Michaels, has been teaching trial practice at the Syracuse College of Law for decades. Many of Lee’s former students keep in touch with him well into their law careers. Lee continues to mentor many long after they have graduated. Recently, Lee got a letter from a student, Steve Kim, who took his class nine years ago. Here it is, abridged somewhat. We publish it with the Kim’s permission. At Michaels & Smolak, we are all proud of our senior trial lawyer’s achievements not only in the courtroom but in the classroom!
I was a student in your trial practice class nine-years ago. I write to you to thank you for teaching the single most impactful class of my entire career. Although I lost most of my law school notes, books, and outlines– I held on closely to my trial practice binder and always made sure I knew where it was.
My first trial was only a few months after graduation. The opposing attorney refused to stipulate the relevant photographs in evidence, and instead made me perform every litany for entering them into evidence. This attorney fully expected me to be unfamiliar with entering in evidence properly. To his surprise, I had reviewed my trial practice notes and had those litanies memorized by heart. I was able to hold my own against a seasoned attorney.
I would rely on my trial notes again in the upcoming years and in subsequent trials. The true test would come this past August. I was litigating against a famous attorney with an impressive winning trial record. In the weeks leading up to this trial, I think I studied your notes even more closely than when I was a student in your class. I did everything you taught me. I made sure I told a story with my opening, I kept my direct examination questions open-ended to avoid objections, I had tight cross-examination questions that were leading, and I entered all of my evidence flawlessly without missing any litanies. The jury seemed to pay attention to the story I had to tell. My positioning in the court room that you taught me allowed me to build rapport and eye contact with the jury, and I noticed a few head nods which gave me bursts of encouragement. After a two-week trial, and a number of expert witnesses, the trial was over. The jury returned in 45-minutes (noted as one of the shortest the trial judge had seen in some time) with a verdict in favor of my client. I was absolutely stunned, and so was the Plaintiff’s attorney.
Since then, life has moved very quickly. As a result of this victory, I was headhunted by another firm, who offered a title bump to Senior Associate, a significant raise, and is now allowing me into a managerial role to build a team of attorneys and open a central New Jersey office for the firm.
My intention is not to flaunt my achievements, as I view all that I’ve done to be possible only through God as well as those that have paved the way for me to further my career. Rather, it’s a means of letting you know just how much of a positive impact the things I learned in a law school class 9 years ago have had on my career.
The single most important class for me as a trial attorney was your trial practice class. I want to thank you for pushing me and for teaching me lessons that have helped me get to where I am today. This is a very long way for me to say thank you.
Steve J. Kim
Goldberg Miller & Rubin