“Life will teach you the lessons, it is up to you to learn them”

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I learned some good lessons yesterday. I was in court. I am  not often in court, as lately I have been busy mostly with transactional work such as contracts and for the litigation that I have been doing, we have settled most of my cases through mediation or conciliation and I haven’t gotten to the point of going to court.

So the first lesson I learned (or rather was reminded of): skills must be practiced and practiced regularly to be maintained. Lawyers talk about practicing law and about lawyering skills, which shows you that you have to do and repeat the skills, such as cross-examination or other courtroom skills, to keep them sharp. It’s like learning a language. I have started studying Spanish again so I don’t lose what I have acquired in my years of study and also so I improve. (as an aside, I am doing the lessons on line through a great service: My Personal Language Tutor. I do the lessons via Skype with my teacher, who is in Costa Rica).

Another lesson I learned was trust your instincts. I decided to try to make an argument in my client’s defense. From when I first thought of this argument, I wasn’t totally convinced of it and wasn’t sure it would work. I told my client that too. Even yesterday morning, while driving to court, I was questioning whether or not to pursue this argument. And then what happened? While I was questioning my client to develop it, the judge interrupted me and asked me where I was going with my questions. He interrupted me again even after I explained the reasoning behind the questions, essentially telling me that the questions weren’t relevant to the matter. It reminded me of times that I have gotten dressed and asked myself whether I was dressed appropriately for the occasion. If you question yourself about something that you are doing, don’t do it and trust your instinct.

And the final lesson? Judges don’t like it when you belabor a point. No one likes it, for that matter. As a lawyer, you are tempted to ask one more question of the witness, just to make sure you get your point across. Judges aren’t stupid, and neither are jurors or anyone else. Repeating your point again and again won’t make it more persuasive and actually can hurt you. Make your point and go on to your next one.


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