Thursday, 19 July 2007

A GOOD LAWYER


Last week I was driving back to the office from court when Radio 2’s Drive Time started. Chris Evans began the programme with the following quip: “A good lawyer knows the law; a great lawyer knows the judge!”
It set me thinking…
When you have been practising in the same location for 25 years it is inevitable that you know the Judges you appear before. In my case they were nearly all professional colleagues, solicitors in other firms with whom I had a good rapport and one of my partners even left the firm to become a Judge too. I suppose one day I might even find myself appearing before one of my former trainees! Hence my vested interest in being nice to staff for, if only the quip were true, I could be repaid several times over.
The trouble is and I tell you quite sincerely, it doesn’t make the slightest difference. Once upon a time, my opponent advised me before we went into the court room that it was the Judge’s birthday and as a longstanding personal friend she wanted to stay behind after the case to hand over a card and small gift. As there were no clients present (we were arguing over a technical legal point) and the present was well secreted in the bottom of her bag, I confirmed that I had no objection. In Court I’m proud to say that I decimated my opponent's arguments, the Judge found in my favour and awarded costs to my client. It was what could be described as annihilation. Nonetheless my opponent still gave the Judge the package; I have to confess that in her shoes I might have been inclined to discard it in the first bin I came across. Instead she took defeat on the chin. After all, we and the Judge were just doing our jobs, and friendships exist outside of the courtroom not in it

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