In our quest to provide law firm advice to attorneys across the nation, we recently aired another episode of The Game Changing Attorney Podcast. Top civil trial lawyer, talented storyteller, and zealous advocate for those in need Mark Lanier recently joined us for an impactful episode hosted by Crisp Founder & CEO Michael Mogill.
Many know Mark for winning over $20 billion in verdicts over the course of his career. Namely, his monumental fight against Johnson & Johnson — a case in which Lanier represented over 20 plaintiffs that developed ovarian cancer from the use of Johnson & Johnson baby powder. This set off a chain of events that ultimately led not only to billions of dollars in damages being awarded, but also to the company pulling their baby powder products off the shelves.
These events made a statement that resounded throughout the country and around the world.
Being a lawyer was not always the career path that Mark had in mind, though. Mark studied language and ministry in college, intending to follow his dreams of being a preacher. He decided to pursue law school after receiving his undergraduate degree specifically so that he could be an attorney to pay the bills — and be a preacher by choice.
Little did he know at the time, entering the legal profession would become his true calling.
While his passion, energy, and drive for justice are at the forefront of what he does, Mark was able to share deeper advice for law firm owners from his life and career with us on the podcast that you won’t want to miss.
Here are five takeaways from our conversation with Mark Lanier:
- We have a responsibility to do the right thing.
- Your differentiators are crucial.
- Know thyself and be authentic.
- The best trial lawyers are well-rounded people.
- Get inspired by your purpose.
1. We Have a Responsibility to Do the Right Thing
Mark Lanier lives by a moral code to do the right thing — all the time. He spoke on the podcast about how it’s simply our responsibility as citizens of the world. In his words, “all of us have a responsibility to do right by our talent and to do right by our system.”
Mark’s faith plays a huge role in his life — it’s woven into everything that he does. Although he’s reached a point in his career that allows him to pick and choose the cases he gets to work, he always makes sure that he is helping those who truly need it, as it’s his duty to do contribute to the greater good. His advice for law firm owners:
“We carry an awesome arsenal of opportunity — it needs to be used for good, holy, right, and just purposes.”
Revisiting a key pivotal moment from early on in his legal career, Mark shared a story of the time he tried winning an unwinnable case… and lost. In the end, he realized that if he had won, it would have been an injustice. It was then that he decided to begin his own practice, so that he could pick the cases he wanted and represent those who had been wronged.
It became clear to him that his talent was a weapon that he could — and should — use for good.
From this, he also learned that sometimes, losing a trial is a learning experience. He now allows the younger lawyers at his firm to try those unwinnable cases as an educational tool. Developing their skillset is critical, and losing cases in the name of trial experience is a cause they at times support.
2. Your Differentiators Are Crucial
According to Michael Mogill’s best-selling book, The Game Changing Attorney, defining your differentiators as a law firm are an essential part of growth. Mark shares a similar belief. As an attorney with numerous 8-, 9-, and even 10-figure verdicts under his belt, we wanted to know: how does he manage to win these cases time and time again?
Mark attributes much of this success to the idea that his firm plays the whole game differently — from the way they take on pre-trial discoveries and opposing expert depositions, to the extremely detailed processes he’s developed for his team. He’s developed a five-step process so in-depth, it allows him to send a novice attorney out for critical assignments.
The entirety of their preparation for cases is different than the way anyone else does it.
The research Mark has put into litigation science, communication theory, presentation practices, and persuasion techniques is unparalleled. His driving force is to move the jury from knowledge to motivation when making their decision. He notes that some of what he’s learned is based on information that he’s sought out — but some of it is purely wisdom learned by experience over the years.
Ultimately, knowing what to do is not enough. You must be wise in how you do it. This is an idea Mark lives by, that has truly proven to be successful for him in his practice.
3. Know Thyself and Be Authentic
The more we know and understand ourselves, the more honest we will be with ourselves. Not only is this an important idea to understand in life, but it’s also a vital piece of law firm advice, as something that translates in front of a jury.
All jurors seek authenticity — everyone does.
People are able to sniff out disingenuous intentions — and when they do, they’ll discount everything you say. So Mark says he works hard to be authentic to who he really is at all times. Although this means people won’t always agree with him, he knows they will respect him for telling what he believes is the truth.
As a kid, Mark’s father worked for the railroad, so their family moved around often. From Texas, to Louisiana, Tennessee, Pennsylvania, New York, and back to Texas — all before middle school. Mark learned to blend in with new crowds and make new friends by emulating others around him. While this worked out for him in many situations, he learned that, in some cases, it was not in his best interest.
His faith in this insight was strengthened by experience while working for a very successful but brash lawyer. His interactions in the courtroom could be mean. While working with him, Mark tended to try and emulate his attitude, even though that’s not really who he is. This came across inauthentic, and Mark eventually reached a point in which he realized that he just needed to be himself.
“There came a time when it was no longer about being the chameleon imitating those that are successful. It was rather, learn their tools and what makes them successful, but integrate them into who you are as a person. Be authentic to who you are.”
From what we can tell now, Mark has truly conquered the art of authenticity.
4. The Best Trial Lawyers Are Well-Rounded People
Mark has added more to his resume than just winning huge cases. He’s also played a role in a movie (as himself), established a vast theological library, and regularly leads groups of churchgoers on Sundays.
He manages his time so that he can balance his work and home life, which is a practice he recommends that everyone implement.
“The law is a jealous mistress, if you’re not careful. She will want all your time, energy, and attention”
This is why he knows that the best lawyers are well-rounded people. You must have a life outside of the law — make time to do things that are not work. Not only does it keep you sane, but it also allows you to connect with jurors on a more human level by referencing things that are going on outside of the courtroom.
He makes it clear, though, that being well-rounded is more than just dedicating some time to life outside of work. It means drawing inspiration from everywhere.
Learn by watching others. Decide what to emulate — and what to avoid. For example, Mark tries to learn from television occasionally by taking note of what makes a show captivating, as well as what doesn’t, or he’ll take a snapshot of a captivating graphic to emulate in his own practices and presentations.
As a man of strong faith, Mark reads and writes regularly, and recently, he has also been recording daily thoughts for his YouTube channel. Most importantly, he always makes sure that he ends the day by connecting with his family.
In the long run, this is what gives him great joy and satisfaction.
5. Get Inspired by Your Purpose
Mark attributes his success to a combination of talent, hard work, and a diligent desire for truth and justice. He recognizes that he wouldn’t be in the position he’s in now without having the right mentors and opportunities, either.
His purpose is clear; he knows that working as a lawyer is what he was meant to do. This is especially apparent in the way he carries himself in the courtroom. He’s not phased by people wanting to win the case against him — in fact, he welcomes the challenge.
Entering a big case, he doesn’t get nervous — he gets excited. Most lawyers don’t share the same level of excitement that he has. Speaking in front of reporters, news cameras, the jury, and a packed courtroom riles him up in the best way.
He illustrates his excitement by explaining that, before every case, he approaches the opposing attorneys to shake their hands and remind them:
“Isn’t it a great honor that we get to do this? Can you believe we have this chance? I want to wish you guys the very best in this.”
Mark’s advice for law firm owners is to “pause before these moments and recognize that we get to do something that few other people get to do — zealously relish those moments.”
The animation he displays in the courtroom is incomparable. Mark is known for being a gifted storyteller, which he accredits to two things: his mother and his daughters.
On one hand, he explained that his mother was the best storyteller that he knew, and he learned from her.
On the other hand, storytelling was something he was able to consistently practice with his daughters during their car rides to school when they were young. He learned to tell cliffhanger tales to them for the 30-minute daily drive to keep them from arguing with each other in the mornings. He kept their attention enough so that they wouldn’t bicker with each other, and he did this for several years.
His theory is: telling stories is what consistently taught him the ability to captivate an audience like no other.
Mark Lanier shared a great deal of wisdom during his time on The Game Changing Attorney Podcast. Ultimately, he defines his success based on his faith — this includes treating people with love and justice, taking care of his family, and being a good steward of the talents and gifts that he possesses.
Being a game changer, to him, means that he doesn’t just do what everyone else does. His advice for law firm owners is to get out there and blaze a new trail. Mark Lanier is always looking for ways to kick his game up a notch — learning a new skill set or concept often allows him to consistently improve himself, and that’s the attitude that gives you no choice but to be a game changer.
Finding new ways to do things that change your own game also empowers you to change it for others.
If you want to hear Mark Lanier’s law firm advice for yourself, or if you’d like to hear from other experts we’ve featured on the show, you can listen and download this episode and many more of The Game Changing Attorney Podcast for FREE on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, and the official podcast website.