Roger Cossack on Being a Legal Analyst

During his presentation this morning at the State Bar Annual Meeting in Dallas, Roger Cossack, the legal analyst for ESPN and an Annual Meeting regular, said he learned how to be quick with a quip while working for CNN and ESPN. That skill came in handy this morning when a DVD -- the A/V portion of the presentation -- was a little late in arriving. Joking that he would lock everyone in the room until they had seen the video, Roger then proceeded to entertain a SRO audience with the story of his transition from criminal defense lawyer in Los Angeles to fledgling legal analyst for CNN. The O.J. Simpson trial proved the catalyst as he found himself giving quotes about the trial to the media. He then ended up in an interview with Ted Koppel. "I didn't know anything about the case!" Roger admitted. "But all they wanted to know about was California defense law. That I did know!"

At that point, with the missing DVD in place, Roger used it to show images of how lawyers are portrayed in the movies and on television: "Lawyers are viewed as entertainers." A lawyer doing legal analysis is no different, said Roger. "When I became a legal analyst for CNN during the O.J. Simpson trial, I was unclear on what they wanted me to do because no one had ever done it before." Because he was comfortable talking to juries, he knew he could do the same for a broader audience and convey the legal terminology and concepts in a way viewers would understand. But at first he was admittedly a little "bland" and tried to stay strictly neutral. "I have been on network TV for 15 years now and I've learned legal analysis has to be entertaining -- and I'm not as neutral as I used to be. I will take a stand, get outraged about cases." In his work for ESPN, Roger said the Duke lacrosse team case stands out for the important lesson it taught him. "I came down hard on the team. I believed these students were outta control, but within a week, it was clear there were problems with the case. ... I should have gotten wary at that point. I should have started asking questions earlier. That's at the heart of what a legal analyst does. People believe what I say as an analyst. That's a heady responsibility."

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