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Making beautiful music while preparing for trial

Jessica Markham

Jessica Markham

Call me a control freak, but I have always been fascinated by orchestra conductors. I think it started at a young age with that Bugs Bunny cartoon. You know the one.

I currently serve on the board of directors of the New Orchestra of Washington. Being behind the scenes of an orchestra, I have realized the amount of preparation and energy that goes into each performance. Everyone has to “leave it all on the field” to make each night truly extraordinary. Audience members will never consider the auditions, dress rehearsals, research, technical expertise (choristers, musicians, AV professionals, lighting), not to mention the business and PR team, board members and donors promoting and organizing the event.

I have realized that conducting a concert and preparing for trial have more similarities than one might expect.

I often comment to my friends and family that no one really understands what I do as a litigator. They think I argue with counsel in court and talk to judges. In fact, during my trials, strangers, often students, walk in and out of courtrooms, just to see what’s going on. All they see are questions being asked and statements being made. They think that’s the work, but that’s not the work. Ninety-five percent of the work has already been done and at this point it’s invisible. What they don’t see is the preparation: 18 months of  paperwork  by my office  (me, an associate,  a paralegal or legal  assistant),  the thousands upon thousands of pages of paper exchanged, the calls, the emails and  often, the  tens  of  thousands  of  dollars  it  took  just  to “produce” this “show.” There are so many moving parts that must work in unison under the direction of the lead attorney.

Recently I heard a conductor remark that the soloist “sang the crap” out of his part. In a trial, all of us must sing the crap out of our parts, because like an orchestra performance, there is only one trial and one chance to get it right. I am grateful for my team members, who sing the crap out of their parts every single day — so that when it’s time for me to sing my solo, I’m able to hit every note.

Jessica Markham is the owner of Markham Law Firm, a family law firm in Bethesda.

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