The top ten tips for trial lawyers
How can a young lawyer who has just entered into the profession can differentiate himself from thousands of lawyers who have an established practice over the years? Every young lawyer must be facing the similar questions how to be a successful lawyer or how to build a grand practice. Here are some of the time-tested tips for the advocates which can help you to be a successful trial lawyer.
- Treat your opponent with courtesy and respect always. Do not seek to bamboozle and weasel and obfuscate. Do not reverse what you promise just to score a point. Remember we are colleagues, not gladiators and our Bar is the place where we assist each other, get along, and thereby improve the efficiency of the trial process.
- Never, ever, ever, be rude to the judge. Act always with clear – eyed honour, fearlessly and square-jawed, but tempered with deference and politeness. Our judges are rather good, so be respectful and remember, the judge is in charge, you are not and if you are annoying, you may be ignored, and if ignored, you cannot be persuasive.
- When you have got what you need after cross-examination stop for your closing speech. Save your comment for your speech, not for your witness. So, do not blunder about asking unnecessary questions, or putting conclusions, risking the witness giving you damaging answers.
- It is not about you – it’s all about the case. You don’t matter – all that matters is how well you put the argument. Noisy, tub-thumping, look at me advocates are usually tiresome, and if tiresome then they are unpersuasive; when to be persuasive is the whole point of your job.
- Bounce your ideas off others in the empty room. See if you make sense, or your argument is attractive or if your pitch is flawed.
- On reading your case papers, now prepare your ideal closing speech long before you get anywhere near the court. It should be your map of what to do at trial, and will guide your case preparation.
- Questions should be short, with one point at a time, long convoluted questions confuse the witness, the judge, and the client, and will please your opponent.
- 85 degrees to the perpendicular, leaning toward your tribunal, with a straight back, not hunched, is the optimum angle of persuasion – no kidding.
- When making submissions, do not gabble, offer an early overview of your point, and watch the judge. Think how best you can make your submission easily written, which will have the effect of making your presentation clearer.
- To return to where I began, to the closing speech, this is the advocate’s moment to shine. Seize it. When you deliver your speech, make sure you prepare it in great detail maybe write it out, though don’t read it out. This is your time to persuade so don’t wing it. Ask for time, prepare it, practise it, refine it, bounce some of it off friends, craft it, weave it, nurture it and then deliver it with clarity, care and bright-eyed panache. A good closing can turn the world on its head.
Pradeep Sharma, advocate with Supreme Laws the top law firm of Chandigarh said that certainly, the tips will be helpful for the lawyers particularly young ones to build up their practice. They will also learn the art of being a good lawyer by implementing the time-tested tips.
(The article is written by Master Morley, author of The Devil’s Advocate)