What is Litigation and How Does it Work? 5 Quick Tips

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Posted: 14th August 2017 by
Andrea Hall
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As part of our features aimed at law students and newly graduates, those looking for work in the legal sphere, and those simply interested in the colours of the law world, whether you’re part of a firm or looking to join a new one, litigation may not be all that familiar. Here Andrea Hall, Founder and Principle of US based The Hall Law Office, LLC, talks to Lawyer Monthly about the ins and outs of litigation form her own experience.

Litigation for me is why I became a lawyer. I remember as a child my teachers telling my mother I talked to much and that I liked to argue. Well maybe at 9 or 10 that was NOT the best trait however it has served me very well in my adult life. Not everyone likes or is cut out for this type of lawyering. What is your personality type and do you like to be in front of people or do you want to sit at a desk and argue your points on paper? You should decide that quickly in your career it makes life much easier and your client much happier. This type of work can be very demanding yet for me the kill was the best part.

The best part about litigation is figuring out the who did it and outwitting, playing and smarting the other side. The top 5 things you should know before embarking on litigation.

Know the Rules. The rules of evidence, rules of either criminal procedure or civil procedure and local court rules. You can win on issues that arise during hearings or trials before the court if you know the little ins and outs of the rules. The rules always have case law attached so you can find cases that help support your position. Study them in your down time and refresh your memory before any appearance before the court.

Know your jurisdiction and your opponent. If you are appearing in a jurisdiction or before a judge or attorney you don’t know talk to people in the area that you trust to find out what types of things they do. Is this Judge fair. Do they tend to side with one side more than the other? Does this lawyer play fairly or do they cheat? Is this lawyer someone trustworthy or do you need to have everything in writing. Again, just make sure you know who and what you are dealing with. You don’t want to be caught off guard. This will make you unsure and make your client feel like you don’t have the situation under control.

Know your case better than the other side. You not only need to know your side of the case you need to be prepared for the other side. Anticipate what the other side might argue. In criminal cases, the State is not used to cross examining witnesses because the defense usually doesn’t have a lot of witnesses to call. So, it is easy to prep your witnesses and anticipate where they might be going. In civil matters lawyers are more accustomed to having witnesses on both sides and therefore more adequately prepared for both direct and cross.

Have a good theme or theory. This will make or break your case. You want to be the best story teller in the courtroom. You want the jury to be able to fall in love or at least have compassion for your client. You want the jury to follow your story! Once you pick a theme and theory follow that throughout your case. The direct, cross-examination, witnesses, opening, closing and voir dire should all follow suit so that the information presented to the jury or judge follows that theme and theory. The presentation needs to worthy of an Academy Award.

Listen so that you can use their case against them. You know the rules, you know your opponent and you know your case. Now you get to listen to what is really being said in the court room. Listen for the golden nuggets that opposing counsel or the witnesses present and say. Use those words against them later in your opening, closing or cross- examination. If you are busy looking through your notes or transcripts when things are going in trial you may miss the “golden ticket”. Stay focused on what is being said and you just might hear the winning lottery ticket numbers.

Being a litigator takes time and practice. Don’t be too hard on yourself as practice makes perfect. Johnny Cochran didn’t come up with “if it doesn’t fit you must acquit” the first time he went to trial. It takes years of practice to perfect the practice of litigation. With hard work, dedication and determination anything is possible. Go gettem tiger!

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