The opinions of individual trial lawyers—if asked what makes a lawyer a good trial lawyer—would be as varied as their own egos. Most laymen and the average citizen called down for jury duty probably assume that all lawyers are good trial lawyers or ought to be anyway. Isn't that what they are paid to do? And way too many lawyers who call themselves trial lawyers, when they aren't, would in some way try to describe themselves in answering the question.
The simplest answer I've given before when asked this question is "preparation." While that is certainly true and a huge part of what makes any trial lawyer good at what he does, preparation alone could never explain it completely. Or even come close. Lots of lawyers try their hardest to be prepared. But does that necessarily carry over to the "presentation" aspect, the part that catches a juror's attention convincingly? Does preparation lay the groundwork for a sought after verdict, even most of the time?
Eloquence perhaps. Tenacity. Aggressiveness. Intelligence. All of these qualities would seem to answer the question.
So do qualities like having a photographic memory or having a way with words. Having a commanding presence in the courtroom certainly helps.
Whatever adjectives you or others might use to try and describe what makes one lawyer a successful trial lawyer where another is not are probably all good answers. But what is that ONE quality or trait or characteristic without which a given trial lawyer fails to pass the test most of the time??
I believe it is the ability to know people.
To empathize with them. To understand what they must be thinking as you put on your case. To appreciate their unique perspectives. To see and hear your evidence and the opposing lawyer's case as if you were inside their minds and their hearts.
To evaluate what is going on inside the courtroom critically from someone's point of view besides your own.
Where does anyone, lawyer or not, get such a trait or ability?
Are you either born with the ability or not? Can a good trial lawyer lose such an ability the more successful he becomes if he allows himself to lose touch with his "old" way of thinking? Don't some people simply have no clue of what it means to understand others' perspectives?
Are how you are raised and where you are from two of the most important contributors to being able to understand, empathize and appreciate other people's opinions?
I would say that they are. For whatever reason someone might have been forced to or called upon to "get along" in the world or "adjust" to a difficult situation, contributes directly to making him deal with human nature. Because to deal with human nature, you have to try and understand it.