Most probably, this would seem like a no-brainer and an obvious thing for any Lawyer to do even before entering the Courtroom, but it’s NOT. I’ve seen far too many instances where a Lawyer appearing before a Court, is shockingly not really prepared with his case that well. He is busy flipping pages back and forth, often referring back to the index again and again in order to ascertain the pages of relevant documents. When you think he finally has a grip on things, the moment a new query comes his way, the vicious cycle of flipping pages repeats itself…AGAIN.
You know what the Judge is really thinking at that particular point of time?
“You had one job!”
I don’t think I need to make it more obvious, but this situation really creates a bad impression about that Lawyer. The Judge probably thinks that either the Lawyer is not interested in pursuing the case hence the lack of preparation, or maybe he is just not a good Lawyer to begin with. That, I can say, is the most damaging thing for a Lawyer and his career.
Once a Judge builds an opinion about a Lawyer, it’s really difficult to change that perception later on.
Just do the obvious will you, and prepare your case really well before every hearing. You should know the basic facts of your case inside-out and the relevant provisions of law associated with it. A query posted by the Judge should be answered as promptly as possible without much page flipping.
Properly highlight and underline the relevant portions in your brief, so as to enable you to take the Judge through those documents as easily and smoothly as possible. It is also pretty handy to bookmark all the important pages in your brief with colored sticky notes and write the name of that particular document on the sticky note for easy reference.
It would also make a good impact if you are able to assist the Judge with some visual aid relating to his case. See, in order for you to win your case, it is imperative that the Judge understands your case as clearly as you do, after-all, how can you possible expect to get a favorable decision when the Judge doesn’t really understands the nitty gritty of your case that well.
So if your case requires a lot of composite details, statistics or any other comparative data, it would be prudent for you to assist the Judge with the help of some tables, charts, or any other diagram for easy reference and better understanding of the case. Visual aids come handy in presenting your case in a much more organized and easy to understand manner. It would also speak volumes about your preparation of the case.
If you are relying upon some Judgments/Case-Laws, it would be advisable to carry multiple sets of those Judgments/Case-Laws, which could then be handed over to the Judge and the opposite side at the time of hearing.
The whole purpose of preparing well in advance is to ensure that not even a single minute of judicial time is wasted on useless stuff. Preparing well in advance will also save a lot of your own mental energy and last minute anxiety, and you will be able to proceed with your case and your arguments as smoothly as possible in an effort to get a favorable decision from the Court.
Also, the purpose of the next hearing should be clear in your mind well in advance. Just knowing your brief is not enough, you should know as to how the case is expected to proceed on the next date of hearing.
- Is is listed for appearance of the opposite party?
- Is it listed for filing of Reply/Written Statement/Counter Affidavit/etc.?
- Is it listed for arguments on an Application or final arguments on the Petition?
- Is it listed for Examination-in-Chief or Cross-Examination? Which witness is likely to appear?
Knowing the purpose of the hearing will help you to plan and prepare yourself accordingly. You don’t want to waste your time and energy by going through the whole brief thoroughly and preparing your arguments if the case is simply listed for appearance of the opposite side.
One other aspect of preparing your case really well, which often gets overlooked, is inspection of the Judicial file. We are fortunate that the Orders passed by the Courts are now uploaded on their respective websites for the ease of Lawyers and Litigants, however at times some Orders are not uploaded online, either due to the mistake of the Court staff or in order to maintain the confidentiality of the parties involved. Also, when a Lawyer is hired midst a pending case, he may not be provided with the entire record of the case by the Client, due to non-availability of some documents.
In any case, you ought to inspect the Judicial file and compare it to your brief to see if it has all the documents in it, viz. the Petition, Misc. Applications, Supporting Documents, Affidavits, Counter Affidavits, Written Statements, Court Orders, etc. In case any document is missing in your file, a xerox of the same should be obtained from the Judicial file so that both the files match each other.
Always, and I repeat ALWAYS keep the Court Orders in your file up-to-date. You don’t want go to a hearing without knowing what exactly happened on the last date of hearing. Also, it will be an embarrassing moment for you, if a Judge refers to a certain Application or Document in his file which just isn’t there in your file.
Another really important aspect of inspecting the judicial file, especially before the final arguments, is to tally the pagination of your file with the Judicial file. Whenever a reply, affidavit, additional documents, etc is filed in a case by any of the parties, it is annexed at the end of the Judicial file. So apart from the independent pagination of each set of documents, all the documents in the Judicial file are also given a continuous pagination. For example, your Reply may have a running pagination from Page 1 to Page 15, however in the Judicial file, it may be from Page 156 to Page 170 due to continuous pagination.
Now at the time of final arguments, most Lawyers forget that in their own file, every document has its own running pagination, but the Judicial file has continues pagination. This may create a not-so-desireable-and-slightly-irritating situation in the Courtroom where you and the Judge are just flipping pages back and forth looking for a particular document. Don’t put yourself in this situation in front of the Judge. It won’t help your case one bit.
This is certainly not an exhaustive elaboration on the art of preparing your case well, however this does covers the essentials, which you as a Lawyer should always put into your practice in order to have the best possible chance to succeed in your case.
- Disclaimer: This article is not a substitute for professional legal advice. This article does not create an attorney-client relationship, nor is it a solicitation to offer legal advice.
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