Lessons in preparation from football and the movies

Discussing the ability of Florida State's football team to make half-time adjustments, former University of Virginia football coach Al Groh is quoted in the December 3 edition of the sports section of USA Today as saying:

"It's the same with some courtroom lawyers. I'm sure both sides spend the same amount of time preparing ... But some lawyers are better on their feet. Some coaches are that way, too. They're just better on game day than other guys are."

As applied to lawyers (and probably football coaches), Coach Groh is sort of right. Some lawyers are indeed better on their feet in the courtroom than others. But not all lawyers spend the same amount of time preparing and, more importantly, time spent preparing is useful only if it is focused on what is important. Burning time on things that don't matter leads only to creating fees and expenses for clients.

Preparation is indeed a key to adjusting on the fly for most anything, including being better on one's feet in the courtroom. As Hollywood director Sidney Lumet commented in his book Making Movies:

"It's all in the preparation. Do mountains of preparation kill spontaneity? Absolutely not. I've found just the opposite. When you know what you're doing, you feel much freer to improvise."