John is an experienced plaintiff’s litigator and trial attorney in Missouri at Carson & Coil, P.C., focusing on personal injury, insurance, and business and real estate law. Whether representing individuals or organizations, John delivers value through excellent customer service and a form of genuine, zealous advocacy that builds trust, respect, and cooperation among all parties.
Lawyer Minds: What fascinates you most about the law?
John Shikles: What fascinates me most about the law is its complexity and antiquity. Our developed body of law has the ability to resolve an infinite amount of problems and has done so for hundreds of years. It is truly the great equalizer in our society. It humbles and empowers all of us.
As to the practice of law, I am fascinated most by the people it allows me to serve. I am the son of a veterinarian and a teacher. Both my parents made a living in service to people. I remember riding around with my dad on house calls and seeing how much his clients and patients adored him. Those early experiences were what inspired me to go into the service industry.
Lawyer Minds: There are countless philosophies, strategies, and resources for trial practice. Is there a specific philosophy/approach you’re most comfortable with? If so, which approach?
John Shikles: I am all about fundamentals.
My philosophy is to bring on the best clients and pair them with the best doctors and experts.
This gives me the simple task of conveying their case to the jury in the most genuine and credible way possible. I know that sounds cheesy, but that’s the way I think about my practice. Great attorney. Great clients. “Can’t lose.” *
*Not a guarantee of future results 😊
Lawyer Minds: Have you ever felt yourself paralyzed by nerves, either before or during trial? If so, how did you get yourself out of it?
John Shikles: I love the organized chaos of trial and the opportunity to tell my clients’ stories. I’m not sure trial has ever been a paralyzing experience for me. When I do feel lost, I always go back to basics. In most cases, our Missouri Model Jury Instructions provide a clear road map and help me climb out of any rabbit holes.
Lawyer Minds: When is emotion helpful in a courtroom (whether from you or a witness)? When is it harmful?
John Shikles: Genuine emotion from a witness, other than anger, is almost always helpful. Anger is only helpful if the jury is sure to relate. I have seen cases fall apart when a key witness loses their temper. I once had an opposing witness so riled up on cross-examination, she began name-calling and completely lost credibility with the jury. It didn’t take long for the jury to rule in my clients’ favor.
On the other hand, genuine sadness, fear, or exuberance, are valuable elements of our clients’ stories. It’s often difficult to understand the extent of another’s injuries or ailments. Emotions are an observable and relatable manifestation of those struggles. In my experience, seeing a middle-aged man break down because his cervical sprain prevents him from earning a living as a painter will quickly resolve most doubts about the reality of his injury. Listening to an accomplished and charismatic young man tearfully explain how being falsely arrested made him feel powerless and subhuman will remove all doubts about the sincerity of his emotional distress claim.
Lawyer Minds: Are there any steps you take to help a potential client not feel intimidated when they first meet you?
John Shikles: I always try to humanize myself by relating or find something in common with the client at the first client meeting. We are both people with lives outside of our profession and job. A large percentage of my clients live in the 90-mile radius surrounding my firm. There’s a high probability we can swap a story about someone, somewhere, at some time, that has nothing to do with the practice of law.
I also listen. Potential clients are there to tell their story. They are the expert on their life. I want them to share their knowledge before I begin discussing legal theories and procedures.
Lawyer Minds: Do you feel there are too many or too few individuals currently entering the legal profession?
John Shikles: The world can always use more lawyers. Lawyers are the curators of our legal system. They work every day to deliver justice and ensure all people are treated equally under the law.
It is imperative that individuals entering the legal profession understand the economic realities of practicing law. Law degrees are expensive.
Becoming a successful lawyer requires dedication, patience, and resilience.
Lawyer Minds: What do you wish you would have known about your career before becoming a lawyer?
John Shikles: In law school, success comes from our technical ability to apply the law to facts. In practice, success comes from our ability to secure our clients’ confidence and satisfaction. The former does not guarantee the latter.
Lawyer Minds: What efforts do you make to give back to your local community, and why?
John Shikles: The best trial lawyers are active members of their community who genuinely care for those who need the most help. Community involvement through service and charity helps me to better understand those members of my community. I want to represent my clients to a jury of our peers- not just their peers.
My wife and I volunteer our time for various community events every year. We focus our financial giving on local non-profit organizations that help those in need near us. I am also a member and former board member of Boonslick Kiwanis Club in Columbia, Missouri, which is an organization that prides itself on serving the children of the world.
Lawyer Minds would like to take a moment to thank John for sharing his wisdom with us!
Trial Preparation Checklist for a Successful Lawyer