Learning to better connect with the people around you can help you build stronger professional relationships and may even improve your communication with a jury. Dan Ambrose of Trial Lawyers University has dedicated himself to studying all the minute details that help a lawyer better connect with a jury. And, in fact, his TLU conferences grew out of his own desire to grow a strong community of attorneys.
Dan brings plenty of expertise to the table in his TLU seminars. He has personally litigated over 150 jury trials, and he’s spent two decades studying trial advocacy. He’s attended Gerry Spence’s Trial Lawyers College, as well as the National Criminal Defense College and the Western Trial Advocacy Institute.
This week, we break down the importance of investing in improving yourself and growing stronger connections. You’ll also hear more about how you can learn from the top experts in the field at TLU.
Use our promo code, LawRank200, for $200 off the registration fee for TLU 2023.
- Focus on connection. Connecting with a jury, with your fellow lawyers, and with the people around you can help you become a better attorney.
- Invest in improving yourself. Growing your skills as a trial lawyer takes time, commitment, and work. But your clients’ lives often depend on you investing that effort and becoming the best advocate you can be.
- Learn from the experts. Conferences like TLU give you an excellent opportunity to study the best in your field and learn exactly what they do to get the outcomes they do in their cases.
Dan Ambrose (00:00):
People are like, “Oh, you’ve got to go to these conferences. Must be such a drain to be the road.” I’m like, “Are you kidding me? To go from, really, one party to the next where all your friends are, and you haven’t seen them in a while, and in different cities and, and you get paid to do it, basically. I mean, what more could you ask for?”
Maria Monroy (00:21):
In law school, attorneys are taught to challenge everything. Tear things apart, break them down. But the qualities that make lawyers great are some of the worst for running a business. At every stage of growth, running a business and practicing law can feel overwhelming. And what happens when you try to add life and family to the mix? It can feel nearly impossible. You don’t have to do this alone. I’m Maria Monroy, president and co-founder of LawRank, a leading SEO agency for ambitious law firms. Each week, we hear from the industry leaders on what it really takes to run a law firm, from marketing to manifestation. Because success lies in the balance of life and law, we’re here to help you Tip the Scales. Today I’m live with Dan Ambrose from Trial Lawyers University, and today we spoke about his upcoming conferences. Dan Ambrose.
Dan Ambrose (01:14):
Maria Monroy (01:15):
I’m so excited to have you finally come on the podcast.
Dan Ambrose (01:19):
Well, I can’t tell you how excited I am to be here.
Maria Monroy (01:22):
All right. I think a lot of people associate you with TLU, previously Trojan Horse, but I don’t know that everyone knows, like, your background. Tell us a little bit about your background.
Dan Ambrose (01:33):
Well, I’m the youngest of eight kids.
Maria Monroy (01:36):
Are you really?
Dan Ambrose (01:37):
Maria Monroy (01:38):
Dan Ambrose (01:39):
. Yeah. I wouldn’t make that up. Six kids now, ‘cause two of my brothers passed away in 2022. So —
Maria Monroy (01:42):
Dan Ambrose (01:43):
It’s what happens when you get older. People pass, but it’s life. Um, I went to all-boys Catholic schools my entire life —
Maria Monroy (01:45):
Dan Ambrose (01:45):
Until I got to go to the University of Michigan. I was at, I, I worked as a house painter from the ages of about 12 to age 32. When I was 16, I quit working for my brother. I started my own house painting business, and I did it all the way through law school. And even after I became a lawyer, I still was a contractor instead of being a lawyer for about the first four years of it. What else can I tell you about it? I was a criminal defense lawyer, um, for about 17 years until I moved to California when I was 45 years old.
Maria Monroy (02:30):
How old are you now?
Dan Ambrose (02:31):
Maria Monroy (02:33):
Okay, so just to give people context.
Dan Ambrose (02:33):
Yeah. So I just did nothing but criminal defense, but I wa— I was roommates with Nick Rowley at the Trial Lawyers College, and he encouraged me to come out to Ca— to out to Las Vegas right here to watch him present for Cala. And when I did, I, you know, got a whole different — I saw a whole new world that I didn’t know existed called the plaintiff’s world. And it looked very attractive to me, being in warm weather and with people that seemed to make, make a — they appeared to make a lot of money. And so I thought, “This looks like a better life than the one I have in Michigan.” And so I, as they said in the famous TV show, I loaded up the car and I moved to Beverly.
Maria Monroy (03:13):
Did you really?
Dan Ambrose (03:14):
That is — no. Well yeah, kind of. I was, but I was just couch surfing. But I was in Beverly Hills.
Maria Monroy (03:19):
Dan Ambrose (03:21):
It was in a small apartment that was rented by an individual named Jose, who was Nick Rowley’s personal assistant.
Maria Monroy (03:34):
Oh my god, this is hilarious. And then what happened?
Dan Ambrose (03:37):
Well then, I eventually got my own place after about a year when I decided I was going to stay here and I needed to be more stable ‘cause I was going back and forth the first year a lot finishing up cases there. Um, helping my former partner, you know, help her develop her business. And then after about a year, I got a, an apartment in West Hollywood and, you know, started my, the new phase of my life in a more stable way with the actual address.
Maria Monroy (04:05):
Got it. Did you ever practice PI or what, what happened? Because I only know you as, like, what you do now, right?
Dan Ambrose (04:08):
Maria Monroy (04:09):
But between now and then, what were you doing?
Dan Ambrose (04:16):
Well, I had to take the California bar.
Maria Monroy (04:19):
Did you pass it?
Dan Ambrose (04:19):
Maria Monroy (04:20):
The first time?
Dan Ambrose (04:21):
No, no, no. Took four tries. But I did pass it on the fourth try.
Maria Monroy (04:23):
Dan Ambrose (04:24):
Thank you. Um, and I, and I anticipated practicing more, but once I really started seeing what the practice of the law is like, I decided it really wasn’t a good fit for me. ‘Cause —
Maria Monroy (04:38):
But weren’t you practicing in Michigan?
Dan Ambrose (04:41):
Practicing criminal defense is very different than being a personal injury lawyer. Very different. I mean, you — there, the preparation of discovery is basically nothing. As a criminal defense lawyer, you get a police report and you get a preliminary examination. That’s it. In civil world you have so much discovery, depositions and interrogatories, request to admit, request to produce, and a lot of motion practice. So none of that really fit my, um, my skillset. So it didn’t quite develop into the, uh, plan that I had when I went to — took the bar, when I sat for the bar and finally passed.
Maria Monroy (05:18):
Right. So what did you do next?
Dan Ambrose (05:21):
Well, I started doing these workshops at my apartment in West Hollywood because I, um, I, I wanted to kind of keep my skills of presentation. But really it was to be social, ‘cause I didn’t know anybody there. And I, you know, it’s — when you move to a new place when you’re 45 years old, it’s not like moving to a new city when you’re 20 or 25.
Maria Monroy (05:41):
No, not at all.
Dan Ambrose (05:42):
And when you don’t have a regular job where you’re working with people that are, you know, that you’ll have community with, you have to, you know — if you’re a social person that needs other people around you, then you have to find a way to build a community around yourself or you’ll be very lonely. And that was kind of what my, um, workshops were at my apartment. The, you know, like, the funny thing is there’s people that you know that were there in those early days. Like Ibiere Sick used to come over, you know, Ibiere right?
Maria Monroy (06:12):
Dan Ambrose (06:13):
You don’t know Ibiere?
Maria Monroy (06:14):
I don’t think so.
Dan Ambrose (06:15):
That — I thought you know her. She’s quite — she’s a pretty well known, um, trial lawyer. You know, you know my friend Stephen King?
Maria Monroy (06:18):
Dan Ambrose (06:19):
Okay. So King you know. He was, like, my first friend besides Nick Rowley when I came here. And so he’d come over and train all the time. And then, you know, you wouldn’t know the rest of the people. But it was, it was a, it was a start. It was a start. And then in 2014, I was in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, climbing. I was in Teton climbing the mountain with a friend of mine, Jacob Norman, who runs Trial by Human with Nick Rowley now. And I was complaining about the Trial Lawyers College and that I didn’t think that it was doing a very good job of teaching trial skills. And he said to me, “Well, you can continue to complain and be part of the problem, or, if you think you’re so smart, you can start your own pro— program and see if anybody follows you, and then you’ll know if you’re right or wrong.” And I said — I thought about it for a moment, I said, “I’ll do it.” And he said, “Well, if you do it, it has to have a cool name.” And so we started brainstorming names and eventually we landed on Trojan Horse Method because, you know, the kind of process had to deal with — I think if you should be really persuasive with anybody, you have to be able to get past the superficial. You have to be able to try to access their unconscious processing. And that was kind of the idea behind it.
Maria Monroy (07:37):
How do you do that?
Dan Ambrose (07:40):
Well, with rhetoric. I mean, the words you use and also the things that are nonverbal — the hand gesticulation, facial expressions, eye contact and eye movement, um, you know, voice control. It’s, the whole idea is to — I mean that’s connection, right?
Maria Monroy (07:59):
Dan Ambrose (08:00):
I mean, what is connection between two people? It’s, it’s, you know — when you have a connection with somebody, it’s, it’s somewhat trance-like. Like you have a connection with — and you’re watching a TV show, you know, if you get upset or cry, it’s because you’re in what I think we’d call a story trance. Because you know it’s not real logically, yet you allow yourself to be put into the state because you want to go there. Because if you didn’t, if you just didn’t pay attention to the — if you looked at your phone constantly while it was an emotional scene, you would not get any emotion from it ’cause you would not be connected to the story.
Maria Monroy (08:35):
Correct. And then after Trojan Horse is when you started Trial Lawyers University?
Dan Ambrose (08:42):
Not quite. There was a step in between. The step in between was called Case Analysis.
Maria Monroy (08:47):
Oh, I don’t know this. This is news to me.
Dan Ambrose (08:49):
I think the date was May 31, 2019. We did the first live Case Analysis seminar in San Francisco, California. And Chris Dolan was the presenter, ’cause I’d met Chris about six weeks earlier at the Grand Havana Room and sat with him and, and visited. And he was telling me about this trial he was doing and all the interesting things that happened. And I thought, “This is tremendous learning. You know, these, these, these lessons, these stories, I think this would be a very good seminar.” And I said, “So if I can get a bunch of people together to sit and listen to you for a day, are you willing to come and, and, you know, talk about it?” And I’ve ne— the truth is there’s never been a trial lawyer who doesn’t want an audience and doesn’t want to talk about his victory. So of course he was like, “Yes.” And, and so he did. And we had about 80 or 90 people come.
Maria Monroy (09:45):
Dan Ambrose (09:46):
And so I was pretty stoked about it too because, like, my Trojan Horse programs were only, like, 15 people. And so this was a really great vehicle to allow me to get to know more people and get more people in my community. And so I did about six of those.
Dan Ambrose (10:02):
And then the pandemic came along. I remember because we were supposed — we, we had a, we had a program scheduled for downtown LA for March 20, I believe, uh, 2020. And with Sean Claggett — and Sean Claggett was out there the week before, and Dan Kramer and they were all at my — I had a nice high-rise apartment that I just moved into March 1. And so they all came out there ‘cause we were going to like put together, like, this, you know, the plan of what we were going to be doing. And then I remember Sean kept calling me, he’s like, “Dude, I think you need to cancel it. There’s this stuff called COVID.” I’m like, “That’s bullshit. We’re — dude, we’re going forward.” And of course I was wrong. And so there, so but that,
Maria Monroy (10:39):
Wait, wait, can you say that again?
Dan Ambrose (10:40):
I was wrong.
Maria Monroy (10:41):
Okay, thank you.
Dan Ambrose (10:42):
There you go. And so, um, and, and so when COVID came, I had never been on a Zoom before. I’d never been on a webinar before. But somehow I got this idea to start doing these webinars. And the first one I did was just a replay of Chris Dolan’s, uh, presentation that I didn’t even record cause I didn’t know about recording them then. And I would just stop it and make some, I don’t know, maybe some comments on the presentation. I can’t quite remember. But from there, I called Sean and asked him if he wanted to do a webinar. And so our initial format was taking film — taking trial videos off CVN and kind of breaking them down. Because right when COVID started, a friend of mine, Ari Moss, came over to my apartment, and we were working on some type of closing argument structure. And I had CVN on, and I can’t remember who was presenting on it, but I was commenting on this trial lawyer’s presentation.
Dan Ambrose (11:38):
And Ari was like, “You know, you should, you know, kind of maybe do, like, a post, postpartum replay and maybe even try to get the, the presenters on, and so you guys can kind of comment and critique the presentation.” And that’s kind of what led to the, the webinars during the pandemic. And, and I was doing, like — everybody thought the pandemic was going to end after a couple months, right?
Maria Monroy (12:03):
Dan Ambrose (12:04):
And so there was this one point when they’re like, “Okay, we’re going to be opening up in 10 days, like, in LA.” And so I’m like, “Oh my God.” I’m running, I, I was running. I was racing the clock. So I started doing two, two um, broadcasts a day.
Maria Monroy (12:20):
But how were you monetizing that?
Dan Ambrose (12:23):
Well, as it worked out, I had three sponsors. I had Priority Responsible Funding ’cause these sponsors contacted me, and they wanted to sponsor. I’m like, “Why do you want to sponsor? There’s 50 or 75 people on here. What — I don’t know what’s going to do.” And they were like, “No, we just want to be involved.” But that worked out really well for them because for Priority, Focus Graphics, and Strategic, you know, this community called Trial Lawyers University I think has done a lot to help them grow their businesses through the pandemic and, of course beyond.
Maria Monroy (12:52):
That’s amazing. I don’t know if you know this, but, obviously, we’ve known each other for — I don’t even know how long now. A couple of years just from conferences. And I never really knew exactly what you did. And then, I knew you had TLU but I wasn’t like — I don’t know, I didn’t think you were legit. So, like, I just — “Okay, he has this thing, whatever.” Right? And then one day, we’re at a conference a couple years ago. Post-pandemic, but still during the pandemic, and I was hosting a dinner, and I invited you. And someone asked me, “Oh who else is going?” And I mentioned your name, and they freaked out. They were like, “Oh my God, I love him! I love TLU! It’s all I watched through the pandemic!” And I was like, “Wait, are you telling me that, like, you actually watch?” And he’s like, “Yeah, a lot of people do.” And that’s the moment I realized, “Oh, like, he’s actually — like, this is a thing.” Like I really just didn’t know, you know. You were my friend, and we had never really talked about it. We always just kind of, like, had a lot of banter and that. But that was the moment. I’m never going to forget that. I was like, “Oh wow. He’s, like, legit. Like this is a really cool thing.” And now how many viewers do you have?
Dan Ambrose (14:00):
Well, it depends on who’s presenting, but somewhere between 75 to 200 every day when we, when we, you know, have live programs.
Maria Monroy (14:08):
That’s amazing though. Every day?
Dan Ambrose (14:09):
Not every day, but I only do maybe eight or 10 programs.
Maria Monroy (14:13):
How much, like — doing that, how many subscribers do you have?
Dan Ambrose (14:15):
Oh, TLU On Demand?
Maria Monroy (04:17):
Dan Ambrose (14:18):
It’s a hard number to say. Probably in the neighborhood of 600 or so, 650. But they’re, they’re all over the — you know, there’s law students, some public defenders. We just are launching an app so that everything we’ve ever pres– broadcast, every webinar we’ve ever broadcast, every live event we’ve ever done, we recorded them all. And so, in about less than a week, everything will be available on the app, ‘cause we’re just beta testing it. But it works really well. ‘Cause you just search anything you want — a speaker, a topic — hit it, and it starts playing. There’s no, there’s no loading time, time, there’s no nothing.
Maria Monroy (14:52):
That’s amazing. Congrats.
Dan Ambrose (14:53):
Thanks. I’m pretty, I’m pretty excited about it ‘cause it’s really going to make the information so much easier to access for people. ‘Cause people had been asking me and asking me, and I was like, “Whatever.” But you know, you listen, and then you can, and then it just wa— and then it wasn’t as difficult. It was a little bit of work. But now it’s not difficult as, as I imagined it would be.
Maria Monroy (15:11):
So I’m really bummed because you’re not hosting Trial Lawyers University in Vegas this year. As of now.
Dan Ambrose (15:19):
Yes. And I’m a little bit disappointed, but not really, because the — it’s hard to really quantify, express, the amount of bandwidth and work it is to put on a conference.
Maria Monroy (15:35):
And you have two others going on this year.
Dan Ambrose (15:37):
Correct. But those are much smaller, and they still take the — the crazy thing I’ve learned is that even though it’s smaller, it still takes all my time every day.
Maria Monroy (15:46):
So let’s talk about those two conferences. You have TLU Beach in Huntington Beach May 17 —
Dan Ambrose (15:54):
May 17 through 21.
Maria Monroy (15:56):
So then you have TLU New York City.
Dan Ambrose (15:58):
Maria Monroy (15:59):
Dan Ambrose (16:00):
Yes. 21 through the 23.
Maria Monroy (16:02):
Yes. I am super excited. I’ve been waiting for a New York City conference.
Dan Ambrose (16:06):
I’m kind of excited, too, because there’s — a lot of the best trial lawyers are coming together. Because a friend of mine, Ben Morelli, he’s a pretty prominent lawyer out there, and his firm is just the most wonderful group of people. And I’m, you know, I haven’t seen them in the courtroom, but I’m — based upon the results they get and the people they are, I think they’re an extremely talented group of people. But he’s also friends with some, you know, like, what I call “gangster trial lawyers” that are becoming, that are — that will be coming to the event, too. And so I’m kind of excited about it because I don’t have much — I don’t have that much of a following on the East Coast. A little bit, but — and there’s so many people that live there, but they’re kind of, like, insulated.
Maria Monroy (16:46):
Dan Ambrose (16:47):
Every time I talk people about going to the East Coast, they’re, like, “Oh, those people. Like, they think they know everything.” I’m like, “Well maybe they do, but maybe they just, you know — or maybe they’re open to learning stuff, too. We won’t know.” I mean once I do a program, then I have a better assessment to the people there.
Maria Monroy (17:03):
So for all of our listeners, Dan is giving a $200 discount for TLU Beach. Is it also for TLU NYC or no?
Dan Ambrose (17:13):
Maria Monroy (17:14):
Dan Ambrose (17:15):
So TLU Beach and TLU NYC.
Maria Monroy (17:16):
So the code will be LawRank 200, and you guys will get $200 off. We’ll put it in the show notes. Now, you’re an amazing networker. Talk to us about how that’s helped you grow, because you’re — you really are a really, really, really good networker.
Dan Ambrose (17:34):
Well I appreciate that, and, but I work on it, and I work on it by being present and going to conferences. And I go to a lot of conferences, and it helps a lot when you already have a relationship with a lot of people. Because when you go into a conference and, let’s say you know 20 percent of the people. Well the people that know them, if the people that you, you know, you run into have a warm feeling towards you, well the people that know them, then they’re going to have a warm feeling towards you. And then if you spend time, you know, spending time talking with those people, well now, you have a relationship, and now they’re part of your network. So that’s a lot of it. But ‘most everybody that registers for my conferences, I call them up, and I spend 15 to 45 minutes on the phone with them, you know, telling them about the event, how it’s going to benefit them. You know, learning about what they want to get out of it and just getting to know them as a person. And that helps a lot, too, because when they come to my events, now they feel a lot more comfortable and, you know, they feel like they know more people. And so I try to do everything I can at our events to help people build their communities. Because you know, we’re social animals, and life is lonely, and being a trial lawyer is lonely. And so when we go to events, I think it’s great if we can not just learn, not just have fun, but if we can make, make a whole bunch of new friends. And not just exchange business cards, but, you know, be at the point where at least we’re exchanging cell phone numbers. You know, having lunch, you know, stuff like that. And having a relationship so that when you see that person the next time, it’s like you see him — like your face lights up. “Hey Maria, how’s it going? I can’t believe, you know, it’s been so long!”
Maria Monroy (19:17):
Your face does not light up when you see me.
Dan Ambrose (19:21):
It’s — but you understand the point I was making.
Maria Monroy (19:24):
Yes. I’m kidding .
Dan Ambrose (19:25):
Maria Monroy (19:26):
I’m teasing you.
Dan Ambrose (19:26):
You are. And so —
Maria Monroy (19:27):
It’s funny ’cause you always say to me, “How cool are our lives that we get to go to conferences and see all our friends?” So I know you truly believe this, because you say this to me offline, right?
Dan Ambrose (19:36):
I mean, it’s true. I just like, people are like, “Oh you’ve got to go to these conferences. Must be such a drain to be the road.” I’m like, “Are you kidding me? To go from, really, one party to the next where all your friends are, and you haven’t seen them in a while, you know, and in different cities and it just kind of — and get to learn some new cool stuff. I mean, what more could you ask?” And you get paid to do it, basically. I mean, what more could you ask for?
Maria Monroy (20:02):
Yeah. Now you also host these connection workshops in Vegas at your apartment, or condo or whatever. I’ve attended one. Um, basically got kicked out for laughing. Not really kicked out, but I kicked myself out ‘cause I kept laughing. But I was really, really impressed.
Dan Ambrose (20:21):
Well, thank you.
Maria Monroy (20:22):
Because you are like a little actor up there and, like, you turn into — When I first heard that Dan was teaching a connections workshop, I laughed for, like, five minutes straight ‘cause I just could not imagine it. So, but it was really neat, actually watching you do it, because it, it, like — you transform into, like, a different person in my opinion. And, like, you’re really in the moment, and you’re really, like, connecting as you’re teaching this thing, and you’re in, like, character. Can you tell us a little bit about these workshops?
Dan Ambrose (20:55):
Sure. These workshops kind of grew out of another workshop I used to teach called Trojan Horse Method. And I taught those workshops — over a hundred of them for the six years prior to the pandemic. And my whole goal was, I was trying to figure out how do, you know, the great trial lawyers, you know, how do they get these big verdicts? Why does one lawyer get $10 million on the same set of facts in the same location where another lawyer might get a million dollars? And so what’s the difference between these lawyers? And it took the pandemic for me to really start to figure it out because I got an opportunity to sit and study, film and get to talk to and interview all these lawyers. You know, the Paynes, the Rowleys, the Mitniks, the Frieds, you know, the people I think are great lawyers that get great results.
Dan Ambrose (21:41):
You know, how do they do it? And what, and what it came down to is that they all have very different personalities, different demeanors, different skillsets, but they all really focused on their connection with the jury. And, and CLT for example, you know, I mean all of them just focus on the connection with the jury, more so than the facts and the evidence. You know, they would cut witnesses, they would cut, cut testimony short and why would you — I said, “Why’d you do that?” “I just felt the jury did— I just thought they didn’t need it. I just felt I was reading them, they didn’t need it.” And I was like, “It’s all about the connection.” And and then as I thought about it and just trained, it is like, “What is connection? How do we get connected to somebody? And if you think about it, like, what breaks connection?” Well, if you and I are sitting here having a conversation and my phone vibrates and I look down at it, well, that breaks connection. Because now it just made you feel insignificant and that whatever, you know, text message or whatever email came through was more important than me listening to you. ‘Cause nobody can multitask.
Maria Monroy (22:49):
So do you think as — just in general as humans, we are less connected now because of our cell phones, ironically? Because isn’t — couldn’t you argue that the phone allows us to connect with people virtually?
Dan Ambrose (23:00):
I don’t really think about stuff like that. I only think about in my own interactions, you know, to not disrespect somebody if I’m talking to them and, you know, look at the phone unless I say, “Excuse me, I’m sorry, I just have to — somebody’s — checking it real quick. Would that be okay? Yes? Great. Da da da da, now I’m back.” Right? Um, I, I don’t really think that — maybe it is, maybe it isn’t, but that’s not really part of my processing. My processing is, you know, really building that to be able to teach people how to get that connection in the courtroom setting in front of a group, standing up. And especially when, when they know you want something from them. And, and that same, those same skills of connection that we learn are the same skills that we use, we use in everyday life with the people around us.
Dan Ambrose (23:56):
And, and so once people start learning, you know, what is appropriate eye contact, what is, you know — to control the muscles of their face so they can smile authentically or, or look concerned, depending on however they want their jury to feel. Because it doesn’t matter how you, the trial lawyer feels. Who cares? It’s like being a leader. As a leader, it doesn’t matter how you feel. You don’t just get to, if you’re angry, just get angry at people, ’cause they won’t fight you — they’ll leave you. It’s the same thing as a trial lawyer. How — and we know that mirror neurons, like — you smile at somebody, it’s much more likely they’ll smile back at you than give you, like, a frown or to be disinterested.
Maria Monroy (24:34):
I’m trying not to smile when you smile.
Dan Ambrose (24:36):
Right? But it but it’s a natural reaction.
Maria Monroy (24:38):
Dan Ambrose (24:39):
‘Cause of mirror neurons. And when we used to learn, you know, we learned to use our hands appropriately and use it as a connecting device in between, you know, with one person. ‘Cause so many trial lawyers I see — when they’re up there presenting, even great ones are like this the whole time. Their hands are shaking up and down like this. And I look at that, I’m just like, “It doesn’t make any sense.” Because they’re trying to connect in one juror’s eyes, hopefully. ‘Cause you’ll connect with one person at a time, right? But they’re — have these two things moving in their lower peripherals and if they weren’t talking, it looks like they’re angry. Like, “Maria, how could you be doing this?” instead of, instead of — if you’re just talking to one person, I think it’s a lot more effective to just have the one hand and keep your hand a couple inches below your chin. And if you eventually train yourself and learn to move it with the rhythm of your voice. Well now, it becomes a real accessory to connection, because it’s between you and your listener and, you know, it’s visually, it’s not, like, up in front of your face where it’s just, you know, distracting.
Dan Ambrose (25:35):
But it’s here. So it’s a little motion attractor for, not just a listener, but the people around you, too. And, and, you know, learning how to, to slow down. ‘Cause most people speed up under pressure. But teaching, training yourself to slow down, to speak a little slower, to pause whenever you want to, kind of, maybe, make a point, emphasize a point, make a point. But also to speak slower and pause. Because you know, most lawyers are pretty smart, and I’ve found that the smarter people are, the more rapidly they speak, because they’re processing everything they’re saying as they’re saying it. So it doesn’t seem like, [rapid-fire]. But for the people who aren’t as smart as they are — and, and everybody has different levels of intellect and education — well, all those people that aren’t as smart as that fast-talking lawyer, they miss so much. And then they’re, they’re forced to, to process all this. Every word that that’s used has to be processed and given meaning to. And when people speak too rapidly, they don’t allow the listener’s mind to, to process and absorb. And then pretty soon, you tire them out, and I think they stop listening.
Maria Monroy (26:43):
So you have lawyers come — it’s, what, a group of what, eight to twelve?
Dan Ambrose (26:48):
Eight to ten.
Maria Monroy (26:49):
Eight to ten?
Dan Ambrose (26:50)
But we break into groups of four or five, and then we have preset scripts for voir dire.
Maria Monroy (26:54):
And you record, right?
Dan Ambrose (26:56):
And we record every presentation, and we just do it in small chunks. No more than no more than a minute, because we have to take the time to play it back and correct the hand movements. Correct the facial expressions. Correct the word choice. Correct the eye contact, and, and other things. Correct these things. And then show and demonstrate how it’s supposed to be done. Then have them do it again.
Maria Monroy (27:17):
Now what I found really — I mean I found it really funny, but that’s, like, besides the point — really refreshing, was that you really do give the lawyers that come to your connection course tough love. Like there’s no — you’re not sugar-coating it. You’re like, “Hey, you want to get better, I’m going to make you better.” And that’s what’s funny about it because he — Dan cares so much that he actually gets annoyed. He’s like — because they’re not doing what he’s asking over and over, but it’s like a loving way, because he wants them like — It’s like, oh, he knows that they can do it. Um, am I making sense? You know what I mean?
Dan Ambrose (27:53):
I know what you mean. And I, and I work on being patient and you know, just so you know. But there’s like six weeks of preparation via Zoom and —
Maria Monroy (28:01):
Oh, I didn’t know that.
Dan Ambrose (28:03):
Maria Monroy (28:04):
Dan Ambrose (28:05):
Oh yeah. We have a meeting every, every — once a week for about an hour and a half. Sometimes I have to have two meetings a week, because I’m coaching them on the video so that they’re learning the hand gestures.
Maria Monroy (28:14):
Oh I thought they —
Dan Ambrose (28:14):
Coordinate with the work.
Maria Monroy (28:14):
It was like, here’s the script, go do it. And I’m like —
Dan Ambrose (28:16):
Oh no, no. And I emphasize them to them that they must practice. They must have this stuff memorized so that none of their bandwidth is used up trying to remember what to say. It can all be focused on the presentation and the connection and, you know — And I tell them also, I said, “This is like a group, uh, work that — and we’re all mutually relying upon each other. Like we’re Marines.” Because if one person is not prepared, then —
Maria Monroy (28:42):
They’re slowing everybody —
Dan Ambrose (28:42):
And they’re wasting everybody’s time. And it’s not fair, because people took time out of their lives. They traveled here. They paid, you know, they paid the tuition, and now they’re not getting the value because one person was selfish. And you could say, they could say, “Oh, I was busy. Oh I had a trial. Oh I had this and that.” I said, “I, I understand —“
Maria Monroy (29:01):
Dan Ambrose (29:02):
But we’re all busy.
Maria Monroy (29:03):
Dan Ambrose (29:04):
And what I tell them to do is say, “You know, if you’re not prepared —“ I give them the choice. I say, “I think you should consider just sitting and being a juror and watching the pre— watching the practice. Then come back in a month, and I’m not going to charge you again, but I want you to get transformed. I want you to get these skills.” ‘Cause if people come to my workshop and they don’t get significantly better then, then, then it’s a failure and it’s a — whether I failed them or they failed themselves, the failure’s still in it. And that’s not good for anybody. It’s not good for them, it’s not good for me, and it’s not good for, for their clients. And, and it’s more important that they learn and they get better, because our responsibilities as trial lawyers are huge.
Dan Ambrose (29:49):
I mean, people’s lives are in our hands and, you know, we’d think that the, the pressure being civil was a little bit less than being a criminal defense lawyer. When you — if you truly believe somebody’s innocent and they’re charged with murder or rape and they’re looking at the rest of their life in prison for something they didn’t do, and you’re the only difference — you’re the only thing between them and a, a life of hell. And not just them, though. Their whole family goes to prison with them, and they all live in hell. And that’s just the, the worst pressure. And, and I know it’s pressure when people have a hundred thousand, several hundred thousand dollars worth of their money on the line. And a, a, an injured person who, you know, may not get proper medical care may end up homeless if that lawyer fails. But it’s still slightly different when you have, you know, three or four deputies sitting in the, in the audience, who are waiting, as a juror comes out, for the foreman to rise and read the verdict. There’s like — that is the pressure of the — I mean it was — that’s why I really don’t do criminal defense anymore, because —
Maria Monroy (30:54):
Were you trying murder cases?
Dan Ambrose (30:59):
Occasionally. Actually I only did one.
Maria Monroy (31:01):
How did it —
Dan Ambrose (31:01):
And it was pro bono. It was, like, a 15-minute acquittal. But it, like, like — you know, the reality is that, I mean — So that murder case was two months long, and I did it pro bono, and I had to spend like $20,000 on my pocket hiring experts, paying everybody to work for me.
Maria Monroy (31:17):
Why did you do it? To learn?
Dan Ambrose (31:20):
Well I learned a lot, but I did it because I believed the man was innocent and that that I was the only thing that could stop him — You know, maybe, maybe a public defender could have done the same job, but that wasn’t my thinking. My thinking was somehow, you know, the universe or God or whatever you believe brought that person to my door. So I’m just thinking like, “Okay, well our paths crossed for a reason and this is, you know —“ Once I hear a story and I believe somebody’s innocent, it’s kind of hard not to help. You know, I kind of look at like, if you were on the side of, you know, if you were on a cruise — It was part of my closing argument in that case, too, because, you know, I said to the folks in the closing, I was like, “You know, people say, I, you know, ‘How can you represent somebody like this charged with murder?
Dan Ambrose (32:02):
You know, he had a gun.’” And I said, “You know, it’s kind of like being — like if you’re out on a cruise ship, let’s say you and your significant other, and you’re out there. And you’re out by the railing, and you know, kind of watching, just having a moment of love. And then you hear this splash, and you look down, and you see that, you know, a person’s fallen over — that they’re overboard.” And I said, “In that moment, do you think to yourself, ‘I wonder if that’s a man or a woman. I wonder if they’re black or white. I wonder who they are.’ Or do you — in that moment, you have a choice to make, right? It’s either you act, and you lower the lifeboat down, and you save that person. Maybe you have to sit with them for a while, too. Maybe you have to wait a week for another boat to come by.
Dan Ambrose (32:45):
Or you just turn your head and pretend like you didn’t see it, and nobody’s going to know the difference except you.” So that’s what it was like being a criminal defense lawyer and taking those kinds of cases. But it takes so much out of you and takes so much of your time, you can’t really make a living. And so it’s like you — and that’s why it’s, you know — People that really are serious about criminal defense typically don’t have a lot of money, ‘cause the people we represent don’t have a lot of money, and you can’t get paid from somebody that doesn’t have anything. And so, uh, you know, that was a long time ago and, you know, and it, it was exhausting.
Maria Monroy (33:21):
It sounds really difficult. I think a lot of people don’t get to see this side of you, though. Because I know you are a person that cares. I know that about you, but I think I know you pretty well at this point.
Dan Ambrose (33:34):
Oh, time does that.
Maria Monroy (33:35):
Yep. A lot of people that maybe, like, meet you at a conference and, like, spend five, ten minutes with you, they don’t see the side. Why do you think that is?
Dan Ambrose (33:44):
Well, probably ‘cause I don’t tell stories that get me worked up too often. And, uh —
Maria Monroy (33:51):
But even just like —
Dan Ambrose (33:52):
Well I, I don’t know if, that people — I think anybody that has watched Trial Lawyers University, been to one of my event — one of our events, I think they’re pretty certain that I give a shit.
Maria Monroy (34:06):
Oh no, you have a lot of really good friends that like love you.
Dan Ambrose (34:09):
Right? But I’m saying about the event, about the vendors who come, to make sure that, you know, that they’re put in a position to create relationships with lawyers who need their services. To give them time to create that relationship of trust with the lawyers who come and, you know, to learn that, you know — I’m aware that they’re there ‘cause they want to get better. But not just learn, but, you know, you can — but they want to make new friends. They want to have fun, and, you know, and, and, and, you know, I have the responsibility to create that place, to create that environment where these things can happen for them. ‘Cause I’ve been all those people.
Maria Monroy (34:46):
TLU is an amazing event. You know that I go to every single event, and as a vendor it’s been our best event. And I can say that confidently, because I have the data. So you absolutely care so much about the event. But one thing I’m never going to forget, because I was impressed that you handled it this way, that you were like, “Oh, at this —“ I was like, “Are you super stressed?” Like during the event, and you’re like, “Nope. Like what’s, what’s going to happen or isn’t going to happen, what happened already, ha— Like, I’ve spent so many months prepping. I’m just going to enjoy it at this point.” And I thought, “Look at Dan. Good for him.”
Dan Ambrose (35:21):
That’s what TLU Beach will be like. Um, we’re working our butt off to make it great and, you know, and, and, and bring people there and create, create the best environment. And this is going to be, you know, I tell everybody, like, “This is going to be our best conference ever!” And sometimes, they’re like, “Well, you say that about every conference,” I’m like, “And it’s true. Because I learned from the last one, and I made adjustments from the last one to make this one better.”
Maria Monroy (35:46):
So what can people expect from TLU Beach?
Dan Ambrose (35:49):
People can expect to be in the, one of the nicest hotels they’ve ever been in: The Pasea. It’s a small boutique hotel. It’s only about 220 rooms.
Maria Monroy (35:58):
So are you capping out — How many attendees max?
Dan Ambrose (36:01):
Well, the hotel has tons of space. I mean the, the, the,
Maria Monroy (36:06):
The exhibit —
Dan Ambrose (36:07):
The conference rooms are large, so it’s not really a cap on it. I expect it’ll be a smaller conference. I expect around 350 or 400 people. And, but we have the whole hotel. I contracted out the entire hotel, so everybody in the hotel will be at our conference, which is really great, because it makes it so much easier to make friends and to network when you see people you know everywhere, and nobody’s going to get lost. And I’d be very — you know what I mean? ‘Cause I’ve been to conferences that people are not sure where they’re going.
Maria Monroy (36:39):
Dan Ambrose (36:40):
Speakers don’t know where their rooms are at. Attendees are, are — and and they get frustrated, because they’re supposed to be somewhere. And so that won’t be happening at TLU, because one thing we do, too, is like, like a month ahead of time, I do an orientation for everybody, and let them know, you know, via Zoom invite — everybody — anybody that doesn’t show up, I send them the video.
Dan Ambrose (37:00):
But that way they can know where everything’s at. And you know, I’m very conscientious about signage and, and having people around that know where everything’s at so that it flows well and um, you know, so they can expect that. As far as learning, though, they can expect to learn more than they’ve ever imagined. ‘Cause we have four tracks, and Rex Parris’s firm, who I think, you know — he’s kind of like my mentor in, um — ‘Cause I met him back in 2003, and he actually got me into the Trial Lawyers College. I met him in 2002 ‘cause I’d been rejected from the Trial Lawyers College a few times. And he got me into the Trial Lawyers College. ‘Cause I met him at a regional event, and we, you know, had a relationship from there. Obviously, we went kind of separate ways over the years at times.
Dan Ambrose (37:44):
But, uh, during the pandemic, he was the first major trial lawyer to come on, and he brought Brian Panish with him. That obviously gave me credibility, which I, you know, I mean Sean Claggett was on before him, but Sean Claggett was not the major force of — in trial world that — back then that he is today. And so that was really great. But the, so the Parris firm has their own track. Sean has his track, ’cause he’s got, you know, six hours he’s going to do with Dorothy Clay Sims on crushing defense experts. He’s doing six hours on big data with his buddy John Campbell, who’s a, a trial lawyer and a data scientist, on how they do these — how they do this big data research, how they interpret it, how they apply it to trial preparation and how they apply it to mediation and settlement these, this data.
Dan Ambrose (38:33):
And then he is doing one day with Geordan Logan, who’s his partner he tries the cases with, on a couple recent verdicts they got. One was a auto vis— ver— versus bicycle. It was, like, a $14 million verdict, and then a med-mal trial where a woman was suffered from dehydration — I’m not sure exactly what it’s called. But they got a $47 million verdict on that one. So kind of break it down, from each step of trial and how the, you know — from the work days that they put in, because this firm here, Claggett and Sykes, these people prepare — and everybody that goes to trial here — they really prepare very differently and more methodically than most firms that I’ve seen. I’ve never seen anybody use their systems here. And I think they’re really great systems. And that was kind of part of the pandemic. I, I got to identify a few firms where they — it was like they had champions.
Dan Ambrose (39:23):
Like, they had a whole, a whole bench full of champions. They didn’t just have, you know, one star. It wasn’t just like Michael Jordan. It’s, like, you know, Michael Jordan, you know, Scotty Pippen, Dennis Rodman. They just had a, this, this system of, of training and preparing that was superior. And you know, the kind of — So those folks, I, I give them more time on the stage, because they have more to share, ‘cause they thought about it deeper. But there’s also on the other tracks, you know. Brian Panish, Rahul Ravipudi, Sonia Chopra, Joe Fried, and Sach Oliver are doing six hours, and three of the hours are on advanced negotiation, where they’re going to be meeting with folks beforehand via Zoom and getting their information and getting maybe a half a dozen to a dozen actual cases. So none of it’s going to be recorded, of course, because these are live cases, and, and work through with the, the participants how they would go about positioning the negotiation to maximize the recovery.
Dan Ambrose (40:23):
Because I mean, let’s be honest, 98 percent of the cases settle. So the better your negotiating skills, the better you are going to be. I mean the more well off you’re going to be, the better off your clients are going to be.
Maria Monroy (40:36):
Dan Ambrose (40:37):
So those are the tracks, but then there are seven workshops slash uh, bootcamp tracks, and that I’m — that I’m even more excited about.
Maria Monroy (40:45):
Why are you so excited about the boot camps?
Dan Ambrose (40:47):
Well, I’m so excited about the boot camps because when you have a person that’s kind of an expert in the area, in order for them to really teach, they need more time. And as a teacher what you want is you want students who are committed to learning. And so these boot camps, especially the ones that are two days long, like David Derubertis, who is pretty much recognized as the premier employment lawyer on the West Coast, maybe in the country.
Dan Ambrose (41:19):
He’s doing a two-day bootcamp masterclass on preparing and trying employment cases for just 20 people. So those 20 people had to make a commitment to be in David’s class for the full two days. And David’s made a commitment to download to them — to teach them his best of, his best of being a plaintiff’s employment lawyer. And they’re going to meet three times before the program via Zoom so that he can start to share with them what he’s going to teach. They can share with David what they want to learn, and these folks can start to get to know each other and get comfortable.
Maria Monroy (41:57):
And how many spots are left out of that 20?
Dan Ambrose (42:00):
I think, like, seven.
Maria Monroy (42:02):
Oh wow. So if you’re interested —
Dan Ambrose (42:03):
Maria Monroy (42:04):
Dan Ambrose (42:05):
Well, and, and, but those people are going to work together, and they’re going to have, like, a mastermind by the time they’re done.
Maria Monroy (42:12):
Dan Ambrose (42:13):
Because they’re going to, they’re going to be together for those two days. That’s a lot. How often you spend two days with one person? Especially, and —
Maria Monroy (42:18):
I mean, I feel like I spent two days with you all the time.
Dan Ambrose (42:20):
Well, but, but, but when you focus really hard on something, and intellect—, and people are smart, they have epiphanies, they have breakthroughs. And so David’s doing that in the employment area. Dale Galipo is doing that in the civil rights area. Our friend Darryl Isaacs and Andrew Finkelstein are doing a two day, uh, masterclass bootcamp on building your billion-dollar empire.
Maria Monroy (42:42):
Dan Ambrose (42:43):
Because they both built billion-dollar firms, and sometimes multi-billion-dollar firms, and they really have a desire to teach and to share.
Maria Monroy (42:50):
Oh, Darryl’s uh, he’s amazing.
Dan Ambrose (42:52):
Right. And so tho— and, and because of that, the folks — Because you can’t be an effective trial lawyer if you’re not making money. ‘Cause everything we do takes money, you know. Experts, graphics, you know, people, assistants, other lawyers, they — everybody wants to, everybody’s got to get paid. And if you’re not running a good business, you don’t have the money. But that, I’m really excited about. And you know, that one, they just had their first Zoom meetup yesterday, and I sat in on it for about the first half-hour, and it was just, it was just so exciting. Cause these people are just — You know, when you, when you, when you hit these, I guess these challenges in business and you don’t have people that will, you know, to help you get, break through, well these people — Again, it’s going to be like this mastermind of folks that are — and some of the folks in it aren’t even lawyers, they’re just the business, they’re just the, the, you know, the operations person at the firm. But they’re there to learn how to run the firms better. And so those are some examples of — And I’m teaching two, two-day workshop boot camps on my connection. So we’re doing one Wednesday and Thursday, so folks are coming in early so that way they get to do my bootcamp for two days and then participate in the rest of the conference for the other two days. Whether it’s, whether the rest of the conference is, you know, sitting in the lectures or doing other workshops or other bootcamps. And, um, Philip Miller, who’s, like, the premier deposition guy, he’s doing a two-day bootcamp on advance depositions. So that’s why I’m excited about doing these, like, kind of, you know, these mastermind masterclasses that —
Maria Monroy (44:20):
Dan Ambrose (44:21):
And, and the effect it’s going to have on people. I don’t know, ’cause as an entrepreneur, as you know, you have these visions. You have to imagine the world before it exists, and then you have to work to make that world exist or create that world and see if people, people are interested in buying it.
Maria Monroy (44:33):
Right. Well, I’m super excited for TLU Beach.
Dan Ambrose (44:34):
Maria Monroy (44:35):
I, I can’t wait. I am sure it’ll be super, super successful and we’ll get to talk about it afterwards.
Dan Ambrose (44:38):
We’ll do a recap.
Maria Monroy (44:40):
Yeah, we’ll do a recap for anyone that missed it.
Dan Ambrose (44:47):
All right, sounds great. Thanks, Maria. Thanks for having me. It’s been fun.
Maria Monroy (44:49):
Thank you, Dan. What was your favorite part about today’s episode?
Dan Ambrose (44:56):
Hmm. I guess maybe just reminiscing about the journey to where I got to today.
Maria Monroy (45:02):
You even got a little emotional there for me.
Dan Ambrose (45:04):
Yeah, that’s why I can’t be a criminal defense lawyer. It took too much out of me.
Maria Monroy (45:08):
You’re — it was good. We also talked about what is coming up, like, what’s actually going to happen at TLU Beach, what we can expect from your conference. And we —
Dan Ambrose (45:19):
Expect to have the greatest time of your life and learn more than you ever imagined and make a whole bunch of new friends.
Maria Monroy (45:25):
And we talked about his connection courses, although I can’t sit through them cause I just laugh hysterically like a five-year-old child.
Dan Ambrose (45:31):
Well, we’re waiting for you to start studying the materials and getting up and presenting.
Maria Monroy (45:36):
Oh my goodness. That makes me nervous. Thank you so much to Dan Ambrose from Trial Lawyers University for everything he shared with us today. If you found this story valuable, please share it with someone you want to see succeed, and subscribe so you never miss an episode. Catch us next week on Tip the Skills with me, Maria Monroy, president of LawRank. Hear how the best in the business broke out of limiting beliefs, overcame adversity, and built a thriving, purpose-driven business in the process.