In this note, I have compiled various thoughts passed down by senior colleagues and gotten by observation. They are couched in short paragraphs and sure wont bore you to the bone. So here we go;
Know your Judge.
Judges have this fearful thing called discretion. General rule: Judges don’t bite but their discretion may sting.
During Cross Examination
At cross-examination– fear not. Understand the witness. Understand what you want to establish by asking each question. Know your cross examination destination and take the witness on the trip with you. Avoid his deviations.
Preparation is key.
Be smart on your feet and at home with the facts/applicable law of your case. Understand the general direction of the case/litigation and the manner of presentation of the case on both sides. Be quick to notice a sharp move when it happens especially when same comes from your learned friend. Nip such quick stints in the bud.
Churning Or Learning?
The grit and grin of law practice can keep you churning out work and never ‘really’ learning and improving your law practice. Therefore, you may end up churning out lots of work but with less productivity, skill and expertise.
Periodically audit the quality of legal services you offer and be deliberate about improving the quality of your work and services.
Skill set, knowledge and drive = three must-haves
- From the beginning make your postulations
- Produce the facts. Don’t embellish.
- Draw logical inferences from the facts and analyse to support your postulations
- End with the affirmation of your postulations
When Reviewing cases that you intend using for your arguments and addresses, do not only look at the ratio or determination of the Court on the issues raised. Also consider the arguments made by Counsel for the parties in the case under review. There you will see first-hand the ingenuity of Counsel, sometimes the arguments of others would help offer guidance to yours too.
Dedicate an hour every day to personal development because you are your first business and largest investment especially as a lawyer.
Gather knowledge. Salaries and benefits could be gotten back from you but knowledge acquired cannot be gotten back.
Don’t class what you are worth by your background circumstances. As a lawyer you are a professional. Think as one. Observe critically. Be a positive contributor to any system you are a part of. Explore and exploit the opportunities of relationships you have to be better.
The litigation lawyer must have the skin of a thousand crocodiles; thick, tough, unbending but useable for making leather that solves the client needs. Litigation is regulated war. Sometimes you bleed and sometimes you bleed others – not literally though. Scratch that, because I know that when you get neck crushing and spine twisting cost awarded against you as counsel that is near bleeding literally. I just know.
Sometimes everything that could, would and should go wrong in a case just happens. And you are in the midst of the storm of wrongs. Your wig feels like falling off and you just want to duck under your gown.
Yet, you only must pick up yourself, dust your gown, adjust your wig and in your next words raise your voice and say; “Most Respectfully My Lord…”
Simultaneously as you voice those words, a part of your mind whispers; “if I perish, I perish”
Litigation Notes are a series of short courtroom and practice lessons gleaned from the personal practice journal that chronicles the green wig years of Frederick Nkobowo Esq. They represent his considered and respectful opinion which could change as his age at the bar inevitably progresses. It is respectfully hoped that these notes would proffer some aid to other practitioners even as the writer looks to gathering more learning. He practices in Delta State and can be reached via [email protected].