Wednesday, March 26, 2014

“The Advantage of Being Prepared” by Jennifer Bicknell

I recently read in a case that “[i]t is very easy to second guess the necessity for and the amount of preparation for the trial of any matter. However, it goes without saying that better prepared lawsuits usually look simple simply because they are well prepared.” Caldwell v. Caldwell, 1988 WL 69506 (Tenn. Ct. App. 1988), 5.  In the last two weeks, the Rice Team has prepared for two major trials to start and I have been amazed at the level of preparation it took to get ready. 
The first way the attorneys prepared was mentally.  Not only did the attorneys need to have their own arguments prepared but also had to think through every possible argument opposing counsel might throw at them.  This required a lot of thought and strategy.  It also required the attorneys to be ready to, at a moment’s notice, mentally comb through all the vast amounts of information they have in the case and pick out the one possibly obscure order, deposition comment, or email that would prove their argument or rebut an argument.
Besides being able to recall that the information even existed, the attorneys needed to be sure they could find it just as quickly.  This is where I came in.  This required a lot of copying, making charts, file folder labeling, sorting, tabbing and many other assorted activities that helped in the organization of the case. 
I did not personally attend either of these particular trials, however, I have attended trial before with Larry Rice and I witnessed how this level of preparation worked and worked extremely well.  Almost no time was wasted in looking for documents.  Because there were copies of those documents for each person who needed them, no time was wasted in passing documents back and forth or waiting for opposing counsel to find the copy they might have had with them.  If opposing counsel referenced anything, or Larry needed anything, he had it in his hand almost immediately. 
One last aspect of being well-prepared, although not necessarily a tangible benefit but a benefit none-the-less, is more of an emotional one.  Although the process leading up to trial and preparing for trial is stressful and anxiety –ridden, knowing when you hit the courtroom you have done everything in your power to be prepared means once you get there, you can focus solely on what is happening in front of you.  Having it in their minds that they are ready and not that they will not be ready for something helps the attorneys focus on what they need to know, do and argue.  This focus only helps the attorneys be even better advocates for their clients. 
The level of calm that comes with being well-prepared may make it look simple to everyone in the courtroom, but the process to prepare was in no way simple at all.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

No Help Within the Legal Field, Anymore

No Help Within the Legal Field, Anymore

Recently, in one of my law classes, we had a guest speaker who mentioned something that stuck with me, he said that there is no helping one another in the legal field anymore, no comradery amongst the practitioners or the assistants in the field. He said that when he started practicing law in the 1970’s that if you made a mistake, the clerks or the judges would simply point it out and do what they could to help you out, and that the opposing counsel would not sling mud and beat you down, but would help to make you a better attorney.
For some reason this just struck me, coming from a small town I am used people lending unsolicited, and sometimes, albeit, much needed, advice. I know that one of the judges from my hometown is very understanding to the attorneys that are trying cases they have never dabbled in before, and always helps instruct them on the law instead of just rejecting their motion because it is not legally correct.
I say, perhaps this is a good thing, because it forces attorneys to either stay within a concentration they feel comfortable with, or it forces them to do their own independent research before going to trial or taking a case. In fact, I think this is an angle that my guest speaker did not address and, frankly missed in his analysis. If attorneys keep using the crutch of intelligent colleagues, then they will never be “zealous advocates.”
This is one reason that I am thoroughly enjoying working for Larry Rice and learning about family law. Being here is teaching me how not to be the guy relying on other attorney, but the knowledge I need to succeed in any practice, and unquestionably family law. Therefore, I say good for the clerks and judges and shame on the attorneys that rely on them for help, they are there to be impartial to the parties, not help one side of the matter.