Temple Tales: A Litigation Lawyer’s Spare Thoughts
The year was a couple years ago. I had just returned from Court and My Senior in chambers asked a rather surprising question – “who is the judge in that Court?” I let out a few hums and then reclined my head to my fallen chest since I could not remember a name or fabricate anyone that I could get away with. Then came a foremost lesson – Know the Judex or Judge.
I have seen this same lesson replicated in other books on legal practice ever since. But more importantly, I see it play out again and again in litigation/court practice.
The Judge is the umpire with a tweeny weeny ‘but’. That ‘but’ is this: He or She is Human. I concede that the Judge is a representative of some divine ecclesiastical order. But I hold the respectful view, he is still flesh and blood and must rely on his sense of judgment, equity and fairness to decide cases before him. His years on the job give him some intuitive ability as well as some nuances. It is only wise to know more of the later and a number of the former.
And even with that knowledge, the part of mastery for the Lawyer is key. Four masteries keep standing out to my mind – mastery of delivery, mastery of the law, mastery of the facts and mastery of emotions.
Master emotions because some days in court turn out to be worse than nagging wives or evil mother in laws.
Master Laws because they tend to change like babies in diapers. Our legislators and Judges are not dead you know? Interpretations of laws change, laws get thrown into the judicial thrash can and our law makers often get light bulbs that make them repeal and enact or amend, amend, amend.
Master delivery – master words and their use. They are the lawyer’s tool of trade. Master what to say, how to say it, when to say it and responding to the unlikely incidences that happen after you have said your bit or the other side has.
Again. On knowing the Judex, today while on my litigious sojourn to a Court whose Judge is known to waste no time on judicial razmataz, a little exchange happened. Here it is, you be the observer;
Lawyer: My Lord, the witness is in Abuja. He said he could not make it.
Judge: You are for the Claimant right? And this witness is aware of this date?
Lawyer: He is aware but the MD of their company died so he travelled…blah, blah
(Blah because the Judge had started writing while the lawyer was still reeling out his poorly rehearsed explanation, then the Court looks up)
Court: But your Client sued people to Court and this matter has been on for over 5 years. Is that not unfair? So when will be convenient for him to come from Abuja
(Lawyer honestly looks at his dairy and flips through to get a date)
Court: He is looking at his diary truly
Lawyer: a date in March would be convenient Sir
Court: Case is struck out. When he is through in Abuja, he can come back.
And so another lawyer left that Court room today, with some pruning from the Judex.
Need I Say or type more?
Written by Frederick Nkobowo BL