10 things to avoid when you're a trial lawyer part 2

 Posted By: je froilan m. clerigo
28-Nov-2007

 

Here's the rest of the don'ts when you're a trial lawyer:

6. Improper manifestations. Lawyers ask questions; witnesses answers. That's the rule. Many young lawyers, however, seem to have this the other way around. Once I am on cross-examination. I show the witness a document, then ask if he recognizes it. The opposing lawyer grabs the document from the witness, stands up and says: "May I manifest, Your Honor, that this document was not under the letterhead of x company, and the signature appearing on it was not that of the witness." What is that? The witness is just shown a document and the question put is quite clear. If he does not recognize it, then he can say so. It was him who should answer, not the lawyer. So, I point out to the court that that's an improper manifestation, and the court directs the witness to answer. Guess what the witness says in reply? Right. He says, "I don't recognize it. It is not in the letterhead of our company and it does not have my signature." When the lawyer makes at least 3 more manifestations of the same nature, I had to ask the court to ask the lawyer if he wants to take the stand so I can cross-examine him.

7. Forgetting the file or bringing the wrong file. We understand that lawyers are busy. But this is not an excuse to ask for a cancellation of the trial date because he forgot to bring the file, or worse, he brought the wrong file.

8. Forgetting his calendar. Calendars are as to lawyers as shopping lists are as to mommies. Calendars and organizers are so indispensable to the life of trial lawyers that you'd think they should be sewn to their sides. Yet, you'd often encounter lawyers whose agreement to a trial date comes with the manifestation that it be made "just tentative, Your Honor, because I will have to consult my calendar."

9. Coming to court unprepared then asking for postponement. One judge in Antipolo City calls them the "the very motional attorneys" because of their motions to cancel.

10. Not knowing where the court is. This reminds us of a priest who, new to the town, asks a little boy where the church is located. The boy replies, "Father, if you do not know where the church is, how would you know where heaven is?" There is a pamphlet (actually, a book) called the "Court Locator". Call the court and ask how to get there. Don't be like the young lawyer I know, who regretfully related to me how the client berated him. He said he was running late for the hearing so he called the client to ask in which floor of the building was the court he was due. When I asked him why, of all people, did he have to call the client, he told me he called the client because she sent him a text message that she was already in court, and waiting for him. I looked at him incredulously. Not only did the client get to court ahead of her lawyer, her lawyer also does not know where the court is. And worse, her lawyer even had the unprofessionalism to ask her, the client, where it was.

There you go.