How do you differentiate your practice and elevate your reputation in the courtroom? A trial bag. If you handle DWI cases and don’t have a trial bag you are missing out on a tool that can give you a competitive edge in business and in trial.



Explanation of how a trial bag can help you convert potential clients during an initial consultation


Deep dive into the power that a trial bag has in generating referrals for your business


How your trial bag will help you win your next hearing and the case you try 5 years down the road


A DWI law practice is a business. If you are running a business, then you must have systems for everything including the way you try cases


Episode 11 Transcript

Hello and welcome to another episode of the NC DWI Guy Podcast. Before we get into today’s episode, I want to encourage you not to waste your time. Don’t waste your time listening to this episode. That sounds pretty derogatory about my own podcast, but what I mean by that, what I mean by don’t waste your time listening to this, is do not listen to this episode and feel good and feel pumped up about it and plan on executing on some of these ideas in the future, and then never do anything about it. If you’re going to spend the time listening to this podcast, spend the time listening to any podcasts, going to a CLE, going to a legal seminar, make it your goal to come away from that seminar, from that book, from that podcast, with the mindset that I am going to implement one thing that I learned in that learning session.

So in today’s learning session, in today’s episode, don’t waste your time. Try to find one golden nugget from today’s episode. And I’m hoping that there will be many, try to find one and say, this is the thing that I’m going to implement. This is the thing that I am going to take home and actually implement into my practice. So don’t waste your time listening today’s episode, execute on the ideas that are conveyed in today’s episode. In today’s episode, we’re going to be talking about why every DWI attorney should have a trial bag, why every DWI attorneys should have a trial bag. And we briefly talked about a trial bag and what that is and how it’s used in the courtroom in episode two. So if you haven’t listened to episode two, that’s the last practice point that we talked about in episode two, it was the fifth tip for district court trial preparation, was the trial bag. So go back and listen to that episode if you haven’t already, but we’re going to take more of a deep dive on the trial bag in today’s episode, and particularly why it’s important.

trial bag is important, we talked about this a little bit on episode two, but it is important in order to teach your judges. The trial bag is a way of educating the bench. So again, a brief overview of what a trial bag is. A trial bag is basically your go to for cases related to DWI. In my practice, it is a folder on a specific legal topic, such as reasonable suspicion, probable cause, HGN. And within that folder is our memos related to that area of law and then case law that is related to that area of law. For every case that is important on that legal issue, I have at least three copies, a lot of times more just so that it’s fully loaded for future trials, but at least three copies so that I can give one copy to the DA and one copy to the judge. And that trial bag, that trial folder stays loaded. I keep it loaded with those copies of cases so that I’m always prepared to pass up my case law.

We have a good outline of cases that are relevant to DWI topics in North Carolina on the website at On that lawyers page, there is a list of cases that are relevant to DWI with a description of the case, brief factual scenario, the holding, and then a link to a copy of the case, so that you can print those off for yourselves and develop your own trial bag. It’s not an exclusive list, but it’s a pretty comprehensive list of cases when it comes to North Carolina DWI issues. So again, number one, the reason why it’s important to have this trial bag, why it’s important to have these cases to present to the judge and to have a copy for the DA, is because it allows you to teach your judges. And this is something that we talked about primarily in episode two. So I won’t get too far into this, but you earn credibility with the judge because the judge knows you read the law. By presenting case after case to the court for every time that you are arguing a legal issue, you are building up credibility with the judge.

That this attorney understands the law, knows the law, reads the law and that is only going to build your credibility trial after trial, hearing after hearing. You are going to build credibility with the bench and that is really important, not only for the case that you’re arguing right now, but for the case that you’re going to be arguing in five years, because the judge knows that you read the law. Number two, in terms of why it’s important to have a trial bag. So you teach your judges, number one. Number two is that this turns calls into clients. The trial bag is going to help you win clients during the initial consultation. What are some of the keys to a successful client consultation? Well, one of them is that you must ask the right questions. You have to collect the right information from the client during the initial consultation and that means that you ask the right questions. Well, you can’t ask the right questions if you don’t know the legal issues, when it comes to a DWI consult.

You cannot issue spot during a consult if you do not know these legal issues, you’re doing a major disservice to your client and you’re wasting your own time if you do not know these issues. When someone goes into a grocery store, what do they leave with? A gallon of milk, right? They go in, they come out with their milk and bread, boom done. That’s what they leave with. What does someone leave your office with? They leave your office with information, you’re in the business of providing information, that’s part of what your legal service is all about. And so by asking the right questions, you are communicating to the client that I can provide the right information, that I have the knowledge about this issue. Clients are buying your intellectual capital, that’s why a client might be hesitant in hiring an attorney fresh out of law school, because they are buying your experience, your expertise. By asking the right questions, you are communicating that you have the right information.

This is why a good client consultation, we’re going to do a podcast at some point on how to do a good initial DWI consultation. But this is why it is such a value loss to basically just give a quote of services during an initial phone call with a client, before you really get into this Q&A. Because in asking a plethora of questions, you communicate to the client your value, you communicate to the client your value by asking these questions. How many of us get a call on the phone from a client, well, talked with 50 other lawyers and some of them are quoting a $50 fee for a DUI ticket, so what makes you special? What makes you different? Right? And that probably hasn’t happened, but something in that genre, right? I mean, in terms of, I’ve talked with a bunch of other attorneys, they’re quoting me a lesser fee. Don’t compete on price, compete on value.

Let me say that again, don’t compete on price, compete on value, communicate to the client your value by asking the right questions and by asking a lot of questions. So number two, having a trial bag helps you to capture clients during your initial consultation. Number three, once that client hires you, having a trial bag will help you impress your client. The client thinks that you read the law, right? Part of the reason why they think that is because every shot of an attorney is always with this giant wall of books behind them, right? There’s this 400 volume set of law books that is behind every firm picture, behind every attorney. We’re always in the law library, with this wall of books behind us. And so the client in part, because of that, but in part because they know what a lawyer’s job is, they think that you read the law. So you are living up to that expectation when you argue the law and when you present the law to the judge.

When you present the law to the judge, you are living up to what the expectation is in the client’s mindset of how an attorney operates. How many of us, let me ask this question, how many of us have argued a legal issue in front of a judge and knowing the judge and knowing this legal issue, you think you are going to lose, right? Wasn’t any opportunity to get a continuance, there wasn’t any way of working out some other plea. The case goes to trial and from the outset, you believe that it’s likely that you’re going to lose. This is important time, this is an important place to argue the law. You have to give a good argument. Again, you’re teaching the bench hopefully you can change the outcome from what your expectation is, but you are also communicating to the client, here’s the legal issues, here’s why we believe that the law should result in a dismissal, in a finding of not guilty. You have to argue the case law.

When somebody comes into your office, when they hire you, when they see you in the courtroom and you’ve lived up to that expectation of doing a good job in the courtroom and obviously having great client service, great responsiveness, great compassion, all of those things. But importantly is great representation. When a client sees that they are going to become a wow client, they’re going to be a client that gives rave reviews. That client is not worth the value of the fee that they have paid you. If they have paid you $1,500, if they have paid you $2,000, if they’ve paid you $5,000, they are not worth the value economically of what they’ve paid you. They are worth 10 times that value, if not more.

Whenever a client that you give exceptional service to goes out and gives rave reviews, whether it’s online, whether it’s to their friends, family members, whether it is in a testimonial, whatever it might be. When they give that rave review, you are earning 10 future clients by the service that you give on this particular case. Do not think of the client as being basically, again, just even from an economic perspective, only valuable to the point of the fee that they are paying you. If you treat that person right, if you treat that person like a human being, if you go to bat for them, and if you do exceptional work in the courtroom, they are going to become a cheerleader for your firm, they are going to become a wow client. Clients are your number one lead generator. By becoming a expert, by becoming somebody that studies the law, knows the issues on a particular topic, you are able to showcase to the client, the level of service, the level of representation that you can give, you’re able to show your worth.

When somebody needs brain surgery, they don’t go to a general medical practitioner, they go to a brain surgeon. When somebody needs exceptional DWI representation, they don’t want to go to the general practitioner, they don’t want to go to the traffic lawyer, they want to go to the person that does DWI cases routinely. And they’re going to find out about that through their referral network. So again, number three, in terms of why it’s important to have a trial bag is that you can impress your clients, you can do exceptional courtroom representation. Number four is referrals. So beyond the referral of your client, the court house is a public place that is filled with potential clients and potential referrals. People watch what you do and say in the courtroom, they watch how you act, they watch your level of expertise and knowledge in the courtroom. In this referral mindset, Jeffrey Gitomer, who is the King of sales has written a lot of exceptional books on sales. And marketing says that, “When you say it about yourself it’s bragging, when somebody else says it about you, it’s proof.” This is the power of a referral.

If you want to know who the best attorney in a courtroom is, ask an experienced courtroom clerk or bailiff who they would hire for a DWI. If you want to know the person to go to, ask a courtroom clerk or bailiff, these people that are in the courtroom day in and day out, other people that are seated in the gallery, other attorneys that are sitting in the courtroom, they all see the level of representation that you are giving to a client. Whether it’s for a continuance, whether it’s during a plea, whether it’s at trial, you’re being watched and you’re being watched by people that are your potential referrals. So by arguing the cases that are in your trial bag, you are showing these other individuals why you are deserving of a referral. So number four, in terms of why it’s important to have a trial bag, referrals.

Number five, you have to operate with systems. If you do not have a system, if you don’t have systems, you do not have a business. If you are a general practitioner, if you are a traffic attorney, if you are somebody that concentrates in DWI defense, whatever it might be, you have to systematize your legal practice. And having a good criminal defense firm requires that you have good systems. So in that system or within your systems, you have to have a good trial system. If you research an issue, catalog your findings, the case law, any memorandums that you prepare, don’t redo the work. Have a system, have a place where that is stored. If the same legal issues come up again and again, you should have detailed memos and supporting case law ready to go to present to opposing counsel and to the judge. You are making your life easier by having a good trial bag. Systems help us to be prepared for court more quickly, to give a better level of representation, but to do that in less time, that’s what the system does. That’s what the trial bag does.

So number five, it’s important to have a trial bag because you have to systematize your practice. And finally, number six, at the end of the day, what are we concerned with in the courtroom? The outcome. Now, we do not control how a judge rules on a specific hearing at a trial, we don’t control the judge’s ruling, but we do control what the judge’s decision is going to be based on. We do control what law the judge is aware of related to the particular legal issue that is being argued. So we have to do a good job of giving the judge, arming the judge with the ammunition they need to make a ruling in our favor. How often do judges take a recess to research the law? Well, sometimes they do, sometimes they might do that based on a case that you have argued, but oftentimes a judge’s decisions are split second.

So you have to assume at the end of your closing argument, that the judge is going to make his or her ruling based only on the facts that have been presented at the hearing and based on the law that you have argued to them. Don’t let your client lose a case because you have failed to point out to the judge, a relevant, legal decision that would allow the judge to side with your client. We are outcome driven, we want to get that not guilty, we want to have the judge find that dismissal is appropriate at the close of the state’s evidence based on this particular case. We have to do a good job of trying to achieve that outcome. So number six, we’re outcome, we’re looking at the outcome, having a good trial bag is going to help us achieve those dismissals and not guilty rulings.

Hope that you have found this topic on why you need a good trial bag, helpful for DWI cases that should be included in your trial bag. If you practice in North Carolina, again, go to There is again, a list of cases, memos, statutes that are relevant to topics that are related to North Carolina, DWI law. And I’m excited for the upcoming podcasts, episode number 12 and episode number 13, we have a guest on, Doug Scott, who is just an incredible asset to the criminal defense bar. Extremely knowledgeable when it comes to DWI investigations and extremely knowledgeable when it comes to standardized field sobriety testing. So we will have him on in episode 12 to talk about the importance of having an expert witness involved on your case. And then in episode 13, we’re going to do a mock voir dire, expert witness voir dire. Hope you enjoyed today’s episode of the podcast. If you did, please share the podcast with another freedom fighter in the criminal defense community, and be sure to leave us a rating on iTunes. See you next time.

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