Question of the Week

How do you stay alert during long meetings or trials?

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Businesswoman with a lot of empty cups of coffee working at table

Photo by Aquarius Studio/

Sleep can be hard to come by for a lot of working professionals in the legal field—whether you’re fresh into law school, a midlevel associate or even a seasoned partner at a large law firm.

Lack of sleep can make people short-tempered and distractable, but having a sleep-deprived lawyer could lead to serious—even fatal—consequences for clients.

Just ask Texas death-row inmate George McFarland, whose lawyer dozed off throughout his 1992 trial.

Responding to a habeas petition by McFarland, U.S. District Judge Lynn Hughes wrote that the lawyer’s sleeping “was pronounced, obvious and frequent.” The then-72-year-old attorney had not tried a capital case in two decades.

“The court does not approve of a sleeping lawyer,” Hughes wrote. “This is unacceptable by an attorney in any case, and particularly in a case of this magnitude.”

Even so, McFarland’s habeas petition was denied by Hughes, who found that his trial had been “constitutionally acceptable.”

This week, we’d like to ask: How do you stay alert during long meetings or trials? What tips or tricks can you offer to others in the legal industry? How do you keep yourself focused, awake and on task?

Answer in the comments on our social media channels via Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

Read the answers to last week’s question: What advice do you give your clients about social media?

Featured answer:

Post by expensive babysitter:

“In some ways, I take a more laissez-faire approach than many attorneys: Yes, I would love it if my clients would avoid social media, but at the end of the day, they’re going to do what they want to do. If they were great at heeding sensible advice, they probably wouldn’t have ended up in my office in the first place. I ask them to think before they post. I ask them to review their privacy settings. I ask that they avoid posting things directly related to the case at hand. And then, I just cross my fingers that the guy on trial for trying to strangle his girlfriend doesn’t post a meme about strangling one’s girlfriend.”

Do you have an idea for a future question of the week? If so, contact us.

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