Attorney Jessica Dean is no stranger to the courtroom. Having practiced law actively since 2003, she has been an active member at Dean Omar Branham Shirley, LLP, also known as DOBS.
Known for standing up to some of the world’s biggest corporations, Dean fights to provide a voice for the less fortunate. Her practice helps individuals who have been victimized by their employers or wronged for the sake of profit, including those affected by mesothelioma.
Recently, Dean shared her trial preparation process and gave insight into navigating the nuances of a trial.
Preparation is Key
For Jessica Dean, everything comes down to preparation. For example, she prepares a comprehensive slide deck throughout each trial. By the time she’s ready to give her closing arguments, she’s able to show the jury a step-by-step slideshow on how to arrive at a verdict.
“I highlight every single thing that I want to put into a Keynote or PowerPoint presentation,” explains Dean. “I get made fun of for having 300 slides. I don’t use notes. I use the slides to educate the jury.”
From the very start of a trial, she uses the jury questionnaire as a foundation for her preparation. Not only does this give structure to her arguments, but it also frames them in a way the jury already understands.
“For every answer, I have first the question, law, proof, question again with the answer, second question, law, proof, answer the question at the end.”
Her methodical approach helps jurors see the facts in a case, not just the opinions of the legal counsel.
Building a Compelling Closing Argument
Despite her detailed preparation, Jessica Dean’s closing arguments are never set in stone. This is because the details of a case—and the opinions of jurors—can change on a dime.
She explains, “I’m organizing it to the second I’m up there…it allows the parts that are a little bit more nuanced or specific to the case just to happen organically.”
Regarding the content of her arguments, Attorney Jessica Dean believes that focusing on the wrongdoing of the defendant is much more effective than asking for sympathy for the plaintiff—even if they’ve suffered terribly.
“I think anger and justice are much more motivating than sympathy,” she says. “I want you to understand there’s something wrong. Then, I’m going to ask you to think really hard and long about what they did.”
In this way, jurors see themselves as arbiters of justice, and not just a group deciding what number will go on a check for damages.
Arguing for Damages
Jessica Dean spends her days advocating for individuals and their families, and she strives to represent them as people—not just as plaintiffs. But this can be complicated when arguing for damages, as it’s easy to reduce real people’s stories to numbers and figures.
Numbers are dehumanizing and fail to motivate a jury, in Dean’s opinion. So, she takes a more human route when arguing for damages—by telling these families’ stories.
For example, instead of focusing on the incident itself, she might tell an anecdote about how a couple met or something that made their relationship unique. This emotional appeal makes a jury feel what’s been lost more than numbers on a page ever could.
“That is the part of damages that I really love, and it requires that you really know your client,” she explains. “Sharing how a client is a beautiful, real person and how they were attached to a victim moves people in a more subtle yet powerful way.”
A Passion for Service
Jessica Dean attributes her successes in the courtroom to her passion for helping others—and to those who helped her identify and stoke that passion.
“To me, finding out what you care about, and other people who have done it longer and could mentor you on that path, is the most important thing you can do,” she says. “You need to have something that you are willing to fight for and that gives your life purpose to really justify staying in this kind of work.”
Dean admits that as a young lawyer, she wasn’t sure what she was passionate about—yet she doesn’t believe this is a bad thing. She used that time to explore and embrace guidance from mentors. It was a pivotal moment in her career.
“Finding someone that motivates you and that will help you in your pursuits can be life-changing.”