Interview with Betsy Greene
Betsy Greene is a successful trial lawyer at the law firm of Greene & Schultz Trial Lawyers in Bloomington, IN. Her accomplishments have been recognized in awards from multiple bar and trial lawyer associations. Lawyer Minds is happy to have Betsy participate in this interview which shows her dedication to the education of trial lawyers across the country.
Tad Thomas: Betsy, tell us about your firm and your practice in Bloomington, IN.
Betsy Greene: Our firm is a small firm. We are small by choice. Fred Schultz and I both worked at a larger office and left to open our own practice. We pride ourselves on providing individual attention to each client and every case. We pride ourselves on trying cases that need to be tried. Although we are located in Bloomington, Indiana, we have a statewide practice. I have the best of both worlds. I get to live in Bloomington, a bucolic college town in southern Indiana, but I get to practice in the bigger cities, too. We do not have a general practice. We do only personal injury cases. We are a trial lawyer firm, and that’s the name of our firm, Greene and Schultz Trial Lawyers.
Tad Thomas: Why is it important to you to be recognized as trial lawyer?
Betsy Greene: I see a lot of people hold themselves out as trial lawyers, but I define trial lawyers as people who really try cases. And to me, that’s important because you have to be ready to go to the mat. You have to be ready to stand up for your clients and you have to be ready to go try the tough ones. I am proud of having tried over a hundred jury trials. I’m not sure younger lawyers will ever get that much experience. There are all kinds of lawyers in this world and we need all of them. We need tax lawyers (like my brother) and transaction lawyers, but we also need lawyers who are willing to go put it all on the line and fight in front of a jury. To me, that’s what the trial lawyer is.
Tad Thomas: Like you said, a lot of younger lawyers won’t have the opportunity to try a hundred cases in their career like you have, but I understand that you like to spend a lot of time working with lawyers, training them to be prepared to try cases. Tell us more about how you do that.
Betsy Greene: Yes. I really get a lot of satisfaction from what I think of as “paying it forward”. I attended the Trial Lawyers College in 2005. That experience was life changing for me. I learned so much that helps me represent my clients. For me, paying it forward is investing in the future and helping to train lawyers for the people. I have been on the faculty at the Trial Lawyers College now for 10 years and traveled all over the country.
I have taught hundreds of lawyers about trial techniques, about communication, about learning about oneself. Which is just part of the paying it forward. To some degree I suppose it’s selfish on my part, because I learn every time I teach. But, I also hope to empower other lawyers to go into the courtroom and be able to fight for the people.
Tad Thomas: There are all kinds of different methods, seminars, and groups out there like AAJ, the Reptile and Trojan Horse. Tell me why Trial Lawyers College is important to you and why you think it’s so special.
Betsy Greene: I think that any time lawyers get together to learn to be better is a good thing. And there’s lots to take away from lots of really good lawyers who are putting on programs across the country. For me, though, I always come back to my Trial Lawyers College foundation. The lawyer who founded the Trial Lawyers College, Gerry Spence, used to tell us “it all begins with you”.
And the thing that I like so much about the Trial Lawyers College is that we do self-exploration. We explore how we feel about issues in our case. This enables us to understand our own reactions and to communicate better. What we’re looking for with the use of the Trial Lawyers College methods is the story, the story of what happened. We use psychodramatic techniques to explore the story in action. That includes the emotional content, not just the facts.
The other thing I love about the Trial Lawyers College is that while you can hire a psychodramatist to help you prepare for trial, you don’t have to. Depending upon your case, it just takes some training, the commitment, and the time to do the work.
The Trial Lawyers College method is experiential. We don’t have lectures; we don’t have outlines and we don’t have notes. We work in a small group format and with the facilitation of the staff, with the help of the staff, I guess I should say, which is me, we get lawyers on their feet and we literally do arguments. We practice voir dire. We practice direct and cross. We explore different ways to tell stories. And that’s why to me, it’s just a fundamental building block in trial practice.
Tad Thomas: It seems like the reason you go through this exercise is so that you are in the shoes of your clients and understand what your clients have been through and that is an important part of the Trial Lawyers College.
Betsy Greene: That’s exactly right. Jurors can spot a fake a mile away. Young lawyers have to find their voice. I remember being a young trial lawyer. I actually started as a deputy prosecutor, and my boss, the first-elected female prosecutor in the state of Indiana, was a fierce trial lawyer. She prided herself on being one really, really tough trial lawyer. For a while there I tried to imitate my boss, but that didn’t suit me. I am a tough trial lawyer. I just try cases in my own way.
The value of self-exploration is to find your voice, your sincere and true and honest voice. When you are able to speak in your own voice about what you have experienced and went through with your client, you are going to be persuasive because it’s going to be a part of you, what they’ve been through, and what you’re talking to the jurors about.
You, as the lawyer, are genuine and you are the credible person in the courtroom, the leader in the courtroom. That’s what the exploration and the time that you put in gives you when you do get up to address the jury.
Tad Thomas: I’ve always talked about credibility in the courtroom. And so much of credibility is self-confidence.
Betsy Greene: Right. Credibility. I believe, as a plaintiff’s lawyer, that my ability to be persuasive is all about credibility. If you are confident in yourself, not in being somebody else or speaking some other script, but if you’re very confident about who you are, and you have done the work with a client to know what they’ve been through, not just the facts, but the emotional content, the heat, the things that all of us go through as humans– including humans on the jury– then you’re going to be persuasive.
Tad Thomas: Thank you for your time, Betsy!
Interview with Miranda Soucie