The Advent of the Strategy Specialist

     When an individual needs an advocate, generally unbeknown to that person, he or she not only engages an advocate, but embarks on a strategy for a resolution to their dispute. Generally, advocates have one primary modus operandi. Either they are masters of persuasion -- and they will rely on this skill in almost every case -- or they are legal scholars who will try to prevail on a point of law in almost every case.

Almost never does the primary advocate consider which of the identified skills are best for a resolution of the specific case or which combination of skills is the best. Advocates most frequently use the skills they feel most comfortable in using, not the skills that would predictably bring the quickest and best result.

     Slowly (and very slowly, at best) this antiquated method of advocating for another is changing. It is changing very slowly, because financially capable people who need an advocate often do not have the skill to know that he or she also needs a person who is a strategy specialist, as much as anything. Indigent persons, for the most part, have no choice of advocates. Most times indigent persons are not provide counsel that both understands the role of a strategy specialist and has the resources to obtain this type assistance. Sad, but true, most lawyers feel they have consulted a strategy specialist if they talk with a seasoned lawyer about the case.

     A strategy specialist should have a good understanding of the four basic systems used by legal advocates, but more than an understanding of the basic systems is required of an effective strategy specialist. This specialist must have the skills and knowledge to give guidance about aspects of the litigation that range from problems with the attorney, the client, the experts, the judge, the prosecutor and other key persons that are important to the litigation. The strategy specialist must know state and federal trends in the law,  political trends, and yet this person must be capable of localizing their talents to learn both community attitudes and resources that are beneficial to resolve the litigation.

     People employed or even appointed to be primary advocates, usually, have an economic incentive not to engage an expert strategist. With private attorneys, most frequently the attorney consumes all of the person's liquid assets as a fee, leaving no money for a strategist. With public defenders or court-appointed attorneys, they are often unwilling or unable to use strategy specialists who might advocate a strategy that attacks the purse that controls their funding.

     Lawyers often try, and obtain, word of mouth assistance about strategies -- and usually, the advice sought is without compensation from another lawyer.  Most times this advice is worth little more than its cost, often because the limitations of the lawyer attempting to help are much the same as the limitations of the lawyer seeking help. Even when an advocate obtains the help of a skilled person, often the advocate does not understand the problem enough to pose the necessary questions to the skilled person to obtain an answer that is beneficial.

     For the specialty of strategists to advance, it must not only be recognized, but compensated and become an established position in the public defender central office. Then, and only then, will people become skilled as strategists, become extensively involved in the issues of the case and be available to assist advocates with productive ideas on a daily basis. Do not mistake this suggested job description to be that of a case manager, or a supervisor. A good strategist will, on occasion, have to chart a course of action against the policy of both the case manager and office supervisor.

     All the problems of establishing a strategy specialist aside, you might ask, pray tell, just what can a strategist do that I and my supervisor cannot do? To ask this question is to affirm the need for the strategy specialist. Besides selecting the system of advocacy used in the representation model for the case, the strategist can offer an objective assessment of when the course of the litigation or even the model should change. Few baseball pitchers realized when they should be replaced -- likewise, fewer lawyers make similar decisions beneficially for their clients. It is no more constitutional that an indigent person cannot change lawyers than a person of means cannot change lawyers.

     Without making this paper a dogmatic recitation of things a strategist can, should and will be doing, let's look at a few things any good strategist should do. As a preface we dogmatically emphasize again that a strategist is not a new name for the case manager or supervising attorney.

     First, a good strategist of any type must be flexible. This flexibility must be immediate and responsive to the slightest wind changes or windows of opportunity for resolution to the dispute. This requires independence and authority to make changes without needless time-consuming acts of bureaucracy. This flexibility includes selecting lawyers for the case that have the skills required to make the model of representation chosen work.

     Next, a good strategist realizes, as did Sun Tzu, more than 2000 years ago, that when you surround an army, you must leave an outlet. This means, allow your adversaries to keep their pride intact and not let emotions interfere with your goal. The strategist must know when to stop and have the skills to select the right person to persuade the client to make the best judgment.

     There are many roles for a skilled strategist. Talking with a friend and another lawyer is not an effective substitute for a skilled strategist. Do not expect an objective view by just talking with people that reaffirm your shortcomings and biases. It is necessary to look beyond just the palace guard for advice. This is something a strategy specialist can probably do with great ease.    

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