Heather Hansen

Every Trial Comes to an End

“This will never end.” You know the feeling. When the ‘this’ is something that hurts, those four words are the verbalization of despair. When you can’t see an end to any type of pain, hope can be hard to find. I’ve felt this way. What human hasn’t? But one thing I’ve learned as a trial lawyer is that ALL trials come to an end.

Let me prove my case. I’ll start with the trials that make up my professional life, the trials we fight in the courtroom. They’re hard. I love my job, I’ve had great fun, but the truth is that trials are one of the most difficult things a person can face. At their worst, trials are an exercise in uncertainty, isolation, and constant confrontation.When I read that trials can actually be mores stressful than the underlying event that brought the parties to court, I wasn’t surprised. I’ve seen two people have heart attacks in the courtroom. I know what trials can do.

And I’ve experienced that stress myself. I’ve tried really tough cases with difficult adversaries, impatient judges and demanding clients. There have been days I’ve felt my trial would never end. I couldn’t see past the sleepless nights laid out before me as far as my eyes could see, and the countless days filled with arguments and objections. But when I look at the evidence, I recognize that every trial in every courtroom in every county has ended.

Sometimes that ending is the beginning of a different kind of trial. Each time a trial ends one side loses, facing public rejection in the form of a jury standing up and saying, “You lose. I reject your side and your story.” Studies show that rejection causes physical pain (and anyone who’s ever had a breakup knows those studies are right). I even know some trial attorneys who take Tylenol on days they expect verdicts. Pain is pain.

Unfortunately, those feelings of rejection can be stronger adversaries than any opposing lawyer. And the battle we fight to overcome feelings, to get up and try again, is a harder trial than any in the courtroom. Feelings just don’t end the same way that trials do. They take longer, and their end is more of a transformation. Feelings like rejection, grief and sadness ebb and flow like the tides. The pain comes, but so too does the relief, often staying for just long enough for you to catch your breath before facing another, different onslaught of feelings. But that break IS an ending. It gives you the time to collect yourself, gathering pieces of wisdom the pain has left behind as evidence that you can fight the next trial and win. When it comes to feelings, some days as long as you’re still standing you’ve won.

Every time I step into the courtroom, I face a new trial. And every trial has made me a better lawyer, better prepared for the next one. Our life’s trials are making us better too. If you’re going through a trial, I submit to you that the evidence is clear. Don’t despair. Every trial comes to an end.

Heather Hansen

Subscribe to Heather’s newsletter, connect with her on social media or purchase one of her books.