Top Gun: Interview with Cary Mogerman

Practical Takeaways From This Interview:

  • Most put off difficult cases, but ignoring them is the worst thing you can do. When you have a difficult case, immerse yourself in it and attack it. Focus on it and dig in. Set aside large blocks of time to wade in and own the case. This is important, particularly when you don’t feel in command of the case.
  • Prepare your case with single-minded focus. Know everything about it.
  • Develop a reputation as “Mr. Preparation.”
  • Always assume the ethics board is listening to your phone calls or reading your correspondence. Make all of your communications ethical and honest.
  • Be diligent and honorable with your dealings with everyone.
  • It’s critical to be a good listener. Appreciate that people are sharing information with you that is very private and they are often in a vulnerable state. Don’t judge them. Listen with a beginner’s mind. Don’t be arrogant thinking you have seen it a hundred times before and have all of the answers.
  • Read all of the cases. Stay current in the law. Look for trends in the law.
  • When preparing for trial, gather all team members and start by brainstorming all possible issues: legal, factual, procedural, pragmatic. Focus on how you are going to get in the evidence. Younger lawyers often overlook this critical analysis. Aggregate the tasks into manageable components, assign them, and maintain regular follow up.
  • Use a pencil and paper to prepare witness notes. Cary does his own outlines with input from the team. For him, pencil and paper are like hitting the save button in his mind. It works better than a computer.
  • When preparing witnesses, be fundamental about their role. Most witnesses don’t have any idea what’s involved. Rehearse both direct and cross with them. Use a conversational style when examining witnesses.

The Hardest Part of the Practice

For Cary, the hardest part of the practice is maintaining a clinical distance from the acute circumstances of the case and overidentifying with the client. It’s good to remind yourself that you did not create the problem, and it is not your life. You just need to play the cards, you as a lawyer, have been dealt.

Another difficult aspect is unnecessary contentiousness by opposing attorneys. But instead of lamenting this, Cary looks at it as a challenge. He tries hard to build relationships with adversaries rather than contend with them. He works to be open with these hard to handle folks. He thinks personal meetings, particularly at their office, is a way of building trust.

During arguments in court, Cary suggests focusing on communicating with the judge rather than joining the chorus of sniping. This helps avoid the reactivity trap. As Cary observes, “Respond to the judge and don’t take the bait.”

Cary emphasizes the importance of building relationships. He discourages complaining to the judge about loutish behavior, and rather he suggests innovative approaches to build bridges.

A Master’s Wisdom

I have often said that those who rise to elevated heights in their profession are usually nice people because they have nothing to prove. Cary is no exception. His superpower is definitely his wisdom and emotional maturity. When I asked him what he would tell “young Cary” as a starting lawyer, he said, “everything works out if you do your job.” This zen-like simplicity is part of the reason Cary has achieved at stratospheric levels. Cary’s long view approach and his ability to stay above the competitive avarice allows him to do great things for his clients.

Here is the formula: work hard, prepare thoroughly, build relationships with adversaries, and keep perspective. These are definitely traits for all of us to admire and emulate.

To watch the full interview of Mr. Mogerman, please click here.

Published May 15, 2020

About the author

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Steven N.Peskind

Principal Attorney

To be successful, a lawyer must have insight into the whole human catastrophe and be able to effectively traverse the legal system. It is the intersection of these two disciplines that fascinate me. I have been a lifelong student of both human nature and the law, and have created this blog to help others following my path.

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