by Sam W.
A trial is a significant event in a litigator’s career, and I was fortunate enough to be able to observe one this summer. My role was to transcribe what was said at the trial, word for word. The lawyers from our firm could then refer to my notes immediately in preparing for examination of witnesses and objections. I also had the chance to get to know the clients, who actually turned out to be charming and genial.
The atmosphere at the trial was solemn. The lawyers were cloaked in dignified black robes. Whenever the judge entered the courtroom, a hush fell upon the room. Each lawyer took his or her time in making a submission or an objection to ensure all points were covered. This was not like Law and Order with Jack McCoy yelling out objections and the judges simply overruling or sustaining them. A lawyer stood up to object to certain evidence being given and the judge pondered the objection for a while. Each objection was met with careful consideration. He asked both lawyers to present arguments on why the evidence should be admitted or not and after some more time, he determined his evidentiary ruling and explained it to the lawyers.
The trial brought what I learned in Evidence Law at school to life. Hearsay was difficult to identify and even more difficult to explain. When the lawyers presented an expert as a witness, they had to argue that the expert would provide information that was likely outside the experience and knowledge of the judge and his opinion was therefore necessary. If a lawyer believed that the witness he was cross examining was lying, he had to put the evidence that contradicted the witness’s testimony to the witness for her to justify the contradiction.
During the recesses, the lawyers huddled in a private area to determine what information they should attempt to elicit in examination of witnesses, how they should approach the examination, and how to frame a particular legal argument. For instance, one lawyer was aggressive in his cross-examination of a witness because he knew the witness could withstand the pressure. With another witness, he was gentle in his questioning because he knew the witness tended to be emotional and was in a vulnerable position. Thus, he avoided looking like a bully.
This would last the whole day and the lawyers returned to the firm a little tired. Frequently, they devised strategies and drafted points they were going to make at court without taking much of a break. Evenings were spent preparing for the next day of trial. It was exciting to watch the trial and the behind-the-scenes drama. I was very impressed with the amount of preparation the lawyers put into the trial and the skill they demonstrated at the courtroom.