Harnessing The Hedgehog At Harvard

In his book Good To Great, Jim Collins discusses ‘the hedgehog concept’. The concept is essentially this: although the fox is a cunning predator, the hedgehog always defeats the fox because the hedgehog focuses on doing one thing well – it rolls into a ball of spiky quills the fox cannot penetrate. The hedgehog concept applies to practicing law: focusing on one narrow area of law and doing it well leads to expertise and effectiveness. In the narrow area of DUI/OVI defense, one great way to learn is attending advanced level seminars like the summer session of the National College for DUI Defense (NCDD).

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I recently attended the NCDD summer session at Harvard Law School. Over the course of three days, some of the best DUI lawyers in the country discussed advanced topics in DUI defense. The seminar included lectures, demonstrations, and workshops. Additional learning took place informally each night as the lawyers exchanged ideas, tactics, and best practices.

While all the presentations were informative, there were two presentations which stood out to me: one about metrology, and one about pharmacology. The metrology presentation discussed the uncertainty involved in measurements and explained common failures in the measurement of blood alcohol concentration. The pharmacology presentation compared the work of law enforcement Drug Recognition Experts to that of pharmacologists in DUI/OVI cases involving drugs other than alcohol.

Two other outstanding presentations were labeled as “serious science”. The first discussed the analysis of alcohol in blood samples, and the second discussed the analysis of drugs (other than alcohol) in blood samples. Those lectures paired well with a presentation about blood draws. A medic-turned-defense attorney discussed phlebotomy and gave participants the opportunity to practice blood draws (on mannequins, not each other!). This group of lectures helps DUI defense lawyers detect problems in blood testing, from beginning to end, which may impact blood test results.

The keynote address was given by attorney Gerald Goldstein. Goldstein is a nationally renowned defense lawyer, a past president of the National Association for Criminal Defense Lawyers, and a brilliant legal analyst. His presentation focused on United States Supreme Court cases which have shaped modern Constitutional law. He dove deep into cases interpreting the Fourth Amendment and the Sixth Amendment. Although a lecture on case law may not sound exciting on the surface, Goldstein is such a good orator the presentation captured my interest from beginning to end.

I have practiced criminal defense law for 20 years, and I have focused my practice on Ohio DUI/OVI defense for the last 15 years. While I feel like I have developed a certain level of expertise in this area, I also know there is more to learn. The NCDD summer session at Harvard is a great learning experience, which is why I have attended this seminar multiple times. Each time helps me get better at doing one thing well, like the hedgehog. Foxes beware.