Customs and Practices Vary Hugely

Yesterday, a friend brought us this can of French-Canadian style split pea soup. Last weekend, we had taken her some homemade split pea soup.


Our friend grew up in New England in the 50’s and this brand was a favorite. Even now, the soup is only sold in the Northeast and is not that easy to find. She had to order it from somewhere in upstate New York. (The wonders of the internet...)


What does canned soup have to do with anything - especially with being a trial lawyer?


Trial lawyering is a local business.


With our pervasive media, we tend to think that regional and cultural distinctions are a thing of the past. To some extent that is true. In my hometown of Richmond, the once pervasive regional accent is now relatively rarely heard.


Yet, regional and cultural variances are not gone - not at all - though they are often masked. Within the same state, there can be dramatic differences. A jury in Southwest Virginia and one in Northern Virginia are not the same, not remotely close.


Even in the supposedly standardized world of federal court, customs and practices vary hugely. Our FTCA practice is nationwide and I have been admitted pro hac vice in over 30 district courts. I’ve lived those variations first hand for over 20 years - and it sometimes gets sticky.


People and places are different. Lawyers ignore that fact not only at their peril, but at the peril of their clients.


One can be an outsider and function effectively, but you must understand your outsider status. You must to get a sense of the locale, and you must respect it accordingly.


And, who knows, you might also discover some great culinary treat, like French-Canadian style split pea soup.