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Playing Loose with Facts

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A few months back we discussed the importance of honesty and credibility. In line with that theme, Brendan Kenny of The Lawyerist recently wrote an article titled, “Why Hyperbole Will Destroy Your Case and Understatement Will Save It.” The article goes further in expressing the significance of maintaining your credibility as an attorney. It includes examples with story lines and excerpts of video depositions. The article even goes one step further and discusses strategies for handling attorneys that cross blur the line. It is a truly intriguing article that I encourage everyone to read.

Here are a few excerpts:

“Playing loose with the facts invites your audience to question your sincerity and suspect that you are trying to manipulate them. They may retaliate by rejecting your client. In short: avoid even the appearance of insincerity.”

“If you distort or even fudge, you’ll be found out. And if you’re found out, you’ve lost everything there is to lose. You’ve lost credibility”

“If you exaggerate the strength of your client’s case in your mind, you will naturally do the same in your written and oral advocacy. Because your tone doesn’t fit the case that the judge and the jury are learning about, they will soon start doubting your honesty, sincerity, and competence.”

Read the article in its entirety at, Why Hyperbole Will Destroy Your Case and Understatement Will Save It.

Argument & Credibility

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Reputation and credibility are everything. I no longer tweet but one thing I enjoyed was that it forced me to express my thoughts in 140 characters or less. Forcing oneself to truncate his or her words and focus only on those necessary is an invaluable practice, especially for attorneys. According to the Statistic Brain Research Institute, a human’s attention span is now 8.25 seconds; thats less than a goldfish. Subsequently, the quicker that you deliver your argument the higher the probability that it will resonate.

Continuing that thought – while hoping I still have your attention – how you utilize one’s time presenting arguments will affect your credibility and reputation. Do not tatter your credibility with arguments that are illogical or implausible.

As a civil defense attorney, occasionally we are dealt a bad hand. A set of circumstances with no means of lending a clear path for your client’s release. On the day of reckoning, whether arbitration, ADR, or trial, everyone knows your plight. In spite of those circumstances, we must represent our client and their best interests vigorously. In unique circumstances I believe this is best achieved by conceding some areas, only to win big in others. To do so, we must maintain our credibility, as well as value the trier’s attention span, by presenting only the most logical and suitable arguments. Pointing out every possible area of contention is not effective nor necessary. Select your best arguments, the ones that you believe will stick.

So now you are thinking, “OK, sounds good, but where is the proof.” For some time I wondered the same. However, I recently came across an article that detailed this very approach. The defense was faced with a daunting task and a good liabity argument was essentially non-existent. Injuries appreared to be related, but the parties did not agree on the extent of such injuries. The defense obtained solid evidence pertaining to damages going at the heart of the plaintiff’s credibility. However, it was going to be critical for the defense not to diminish their credibility arguing liability where their client was clearly at fault. Read here to see the results, Admitted Liability/Reduced Damages.

In short, your credibility is everything. When placed in a tough position with little to work with, face those limitations head on. Admit your weak areas. This will go far in building your credibility and using it to persuade the trier on your more favorable arguments. Our arbitration panels, juries, and judges are human-beings. Arguing liability where the facts are clear that your client is at fault will undoubtedly affect your credibility. In fact, it may lead the trier to feel that you are unreasonable or out of touch with reality; and as a result could lead them to not value your other arguments. Instead, consider conceding liability, accepting responsibility on behalf of your client, and move on to argue damages pointing out key areas where you disagree with the extent of the injuries. Not only is this where you will score points, but where the trier of fact will value your argument, testimony, and candor.

Typography Tips for Lawyers

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I recently came across this article and thought it was an excellent overview of typography tips for young attorneys. Quite often, we are consumed with the substance of our writings and, while important, the presentation can be equally as essential. The excerpt below is from 10 Takeaways from Typography for Lawyers written by Matthew Salzwedel. I found number 1 of particular interest, as I previously posted an article on the same topic, Are you Team One Space or Two? Enjoy!

1. Use Only One Space Between Sentences

Butterick says you have no choice when deciding how many spaces to include after a sentence-ending period (indeed, after any punctuation mark): one space. He cites multiple typography authorities, including the Chicago Manual of Style, Garner’s The Redbook: A Manual on Legal Style (Section 4.12), and the 7th Circuit’s “Requirements and Suggestions for Typography in Briefs and Other Papers” (which Sam reviewed in “Legal Writing: Make Your Writing Easier to Read“). True, other writers have objected to the historical foundation of the one-space rule, but I’ve found no good authority (including the local rules of the states and many federal courts to which I’m admitted) that you should include two spaces after a sentence-ending period in court documents.

2. Never Underline

“Now that we don’t use typewriters, there’s no need to underline.”

Butterick also advises never to underline text for emphasis or otherwise. Like two spaces after a sentence-ending period, underlining is a holdover from the typewriter era, which, as many have forgotten (or in my case never knew) didn’t allow for bold or italics. On a typewriter, underlining was the only way to emphasize text. Now that we don’t use typewriters, there’s no need to underline.

In my former litigation practice, I occasionally underlined text to emphasize particular words because The Bluebook: A Uniform System of Citation requires case names to be italicized and I wanted to distinguish between the two. My view at that time was that underlining allowed to reader to distinguish easily between italicized case names and the text I wanted to emphasize. But I erred in doing so. Given how ugly and blunt underlining can be, start using italics and bold to emphasize any text that deserves to stand out from the rest.

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My First Avvo Client Review “Excellent ★ ★ ★ ★ ★”

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Headhunting

Last week, I received my first Avvo client review. Avvo.com is an online legal services marketplace that creates a basic profile for every licensed attorney. Avvo’s lawyer directory provides Avvo-rated profiles, client reviews, and peer endorsements for 97 percent of all lawyers in the United States. While my current firm prohibits me from representing outside clients, Avvo attorney profiles are beneficial for developing a brand and building a network…

The Height in Professionalism and Courteous, Caring Service

When I met Andre Webb for the first time, and subsequently as he handled my legal proceedings, I was instantly impressed with his friendly, comforting and knowledgeable demeanor, which quickly put me at ease. While the legal matter turned out to be a brief one, he handled it with the out most in professionalism, and his caring and affable way really helped calm my anxiety in this unfamiliar and sometimes treacherous world that I’m so inexperienced with. It’s a great feeling to know that you have an advocate of Andre’s quality on your side, and his efforts are greatly appreciated by me. I consider him a valuable asset to his law firm, and I would certainly look forward to having him handle any further legal matters, while I also hope never to need to call upon him in the future. A true gentleman and a major credit to the legal profession.

See, My First Avvo Review. Thank you!

Helping the Court Reporter

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A clean, coherent, and intelligible deposition transcript is invaluable to a trial attorney. It can prevent the waste of hours of trial preparation spent decoding same. It may also be the key piece of evidence used to impeach a witness during cross-examination and question his or her credibility.

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With that, know that the court reporter is your friend — help your friend help you. To do so, see this article that list best practices and suggestions for handling a court reporter at a deposition. A brief must read for any trial attorney.

When you’re taking a deposition, you know that ensuring a complete and accurate record is vital. So don’t take the person who’s dutifully taking down the proceedings for granted: Assisting the court reporter is not only polite, it might be the key to a clean depo transcript to use at trial.

Helping the court reporter start even before the deposition begins by

  • Showing up early to organize documents for convenient reference and mark them as exhibits.
  • Giving the reporter a copy of the case caption so the transcript will include the correct case name and court number.
  • If the deponent is an expert, offering the reporter a written glossary of unusual terms that will be used during the deposition.

Read more: Give the Reporter a Hand to Get a Clean Depo Transcript

2014 ABA Midyear Meeting Recap

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The ABA Midyear Meeting was an amazing experience. The Hyatt Regency Chicago and Swissotel served as host hotels, with the Hyatt set up as headquarters for the ABA Association, and Swissotel the primary meeting grounds for the Youth Lawyers Division. Wind chills left temperatures feeling near negative 20 degrees, so the underground pedway connecting the properties was nothing short of a miracle.

Prior to arriving, I reviewed the available program itenary and chose to sign up for the Anatomy of ADR and Law School to Law Practice event. I arrived at the Swissotel early Friday morning unsure of what to expect – it was my first ABA national meeting…

Law School to Law Practice:

The description, “program discusses the pros and cons of starting a solo practice, and how one succeeds after he or she has committed to the objective of making it as a solo practitioner.” Attending simply made sense. Topics discussed may be useful to any young attorney in launching their career. The program was orchestrated by the YLD Solo Practitioners. Chris Blaylock, of the Law Offices of C.W. Blaylock served as the moderator, along with Orly Ahrony, and Elizabeth “Jodi” McShan as panelist.

The program was planned for one hour, which I predicted to be quite challenging. One hour is not enough to cover almost anything in the legal profession, let alone explain how to launch and develop a firm. Nonetheless, the panelist gave it their best shot.

The material was broken down into three sections: Marketing and Accounting; Networking/Retaining a Client/Client Communications; and the Pros and Cons of Running a Small Firm. Opening slides listed basic information easily discoverable online with little research, but in the interest of ensuring that everyone was on the same page I understood the purpose. Additionally, it made it super convenient and helpful for future reference. Later slides, discussed in detail best practices for a solo practitioner along with recommended resources.

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Five Questions Asked and Answered for Legal Technology News

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Just before Thanksgiving, Ari Kaplan Advisors conducted a flash telephone survey of 26 predominantly administrative professionals from Fortune 500 (or Global 500) companies with knowledge of, and responsibility for, their organization’s electronic discovery protocols and litigation practices. Half of the respondents were either the director of legal operations or the director of electronic discovery. They shared their views on the key trends that are likely to shape e-discovery in 2014, which should be noted before you review product offerings at LegalTech New York from Feb. 4 to 6 at the Hilton New York, 1335 Avenue of Americas, New York, N.Y.

1. Do you anticipate the volume of litigation to change significantly in 2014 and 2015 versus 2013?

Answer: Litigation volumes will increase.

Read more: Five Questions Asked and Answered for LegalTech New York