Book Review of Anatomy of a Trial: A Primer For Young Lawyers By Paul Mark Sandler, Esq. Trial Reporter (Summer 2009).


This article originally appeared in Trial Reporter, Summer 2009.

As a trial advocacy instructor, I relished the chance to review Mr. Sandler’s new book, Anatomy of a Trial (“Anatomy”) for the Trial Reporter. [1] The book did not disappoint. What most distinguishes it from similar books is the thread that weaves the book together: United States v. Rosen. Mr. Sandler defended Rosen at trial from allegations that he purposely underreported donations connected with a lavish fundraiser for Hillary Clinton’s 2000 Senatorial campaign. Many trial advocacy books use anecdotes to provide “teachable moments.” Few provide the sweeping perspective and readability of this book.

Further, few trial advocacy books contain the writing of more than one author. Anatomy richly benefits from the wisdom of four distinguished trial judges. The judges cement Mr. Sandler’s teachings and add valuable lessons of their own. The book’s relative brevity combined with the authors’ discipline has produced a work that distills the presentations to essential information.

Mr. Sandler’s discussion of the timeless concepts of ethos, pathos, and logos is useful for anyone who seeks to persuade. Most instructors who write about the technique of refreshing a witness’s recollection do so in the context of direct examination. On page 114, Mr. Sandler discusses using it during the cross-examination of witness whom you do not want to discredit. It is a valuable technique.

My quibbles with the book are few. Mr. Sandler uses the old saw “the evidence will show” in his chapter on opening statements. I prefer “we will prove,” “we will show,” or, better still, storytelling that makes such words unnecessary. Mr. Sandler cautions the reader to mind the concept of “primacy” by stating that “people remember best what they hear first.” I have found that it isn’t what people hear first that matters, but rather the first thing that resonates with them. On page 172, Mr. Sandler tells the jury that he will “review…the salient materials of evidence superimposed by the instructions that the judge has given.” Mr. Sandler must have had a well-educated jury to use such language. On page 154, readers are referred to a bibliography of advocacy teaching tools. I was disappointed to find it absent from the book. Moreover, I found reading the transcripts from the trial somewhat tedious, particularly since earlier in the book the authors ably distilled the key lessons to be gleaned from them. In the prosecutor’s closing argument, he used “we submit…” so often that I stopped counting at the tenth time. I have heard many lawyers argue similarly to both juries and judges. Is it an effective way of making a point without telling the fact-finder(s) what to think or ill-advised legalistic blather? I would have liked for Mr. Sandler to address this.

At the end of each semester I give my trial advocacy students a bibliography of resources. This book will be on the next one. It is also, however, a worthwhile read for experienced trial lawyers who try cases intermittently. For those who haven’t the time to read the entire book but seek an efficient refresher course, the “Learning Points” at the end of each chapter will prove useful. [2] Lastly, I would be remiss if I failed to mention that, at a mere $25 through MICPEL, it is quite a bargain.

[1] Pleading Causes of Action in Maryland and Pattern Examinations of Witnesses for the Maryland Lawyer, books he co-authored, have long occupied spots on my bookshelf.

[2] The “Learning Points” for the Cross-examination chapter (p. 142) are missing the sub-heading supplied to the Learning Points provided elsewhere in the boo