Tag Archive for: legal career

In the second part of our trial tips series, we continue to provide guidance for young lawyers and more experienced ones who want to succeed at trial, or at least put their best case forward. Below are more tips from the American Bar Association (“ABA”) on preparing and conducting trials.
● Create Witness Outlines, Not Questions. The best way is to prepare an outline of areas of questions for witnesses instead of preparing questions ahead of time. Doing so allows you to tell a story through conversation instead of reading exact questions that prevent a fluid question-and-answer witness session. Do, however, have certain questions prepared to ask on redirect to establish a fact or to impeach on cross-examination.
● Expect evidentiary issues. Know the rules of evidence extremely well prior to trial. Re-read the rules so that they are fresh in your mind. Expect to anticipate objections and be prepared to address those objections. If you have a complicated evidentiary issue, prepare a short memo ahead of time so you have a roadmap for your arguments before the court. Be sure to include legal citations and provide the memo to the judge during arguments.
● Use Effective Visual Aids. Even in civil litigation cases, both judges and jurors expect a visual presentation of the case. These visuals should be used during opening statements, when you are examining witnesses, and during closing arguments. The aid will help tell your story visually and support your theory of the case.
● Draft Closing Arguments. Make sure that your closing statement cites both the evidence and the applicable law that supports the merits and theme of your client’s case. Your closing argument should be prepared before trial begins. Create an outline prior to trial that cites testimony and exhibits you expect to be admitted at trial; you can modify your closing as the evidence evolves during trial.
● Observe and Listen. Pay attention to the facial expressions of the jurors and the judge during trial. Also, be sure to listen to the messaging being given to the judge and jury. The questions asked or rulings made by a judge will typically indicate how he or she is thinking regarding important issues and who may be winning the case.
While trial textbooks and other books are vital to preparing for trial, it is best to take a practical approach. Make sure you are prepared for unexpected surprises. Also, ask for help from an attorney who has tried cases before. Experience is the best teacher.
For more trial tips, go to the ABA’s website. For assistance with service of process, contact us today.

If you are a young lawyer preparing for trial, or a more experienced lawyer who does not try cases often, there are some reading materials you should pick up. Specifically, Fundamentals of Trial Techniques by Thomas A. Mauet and Winning at Trial by D. Shane Read. Reading these two books should be part of your plan prior to going to trial. This is because both books provide critical information on basic trial techniques. In an effort to go beyond these books, however, the American Bar Association (“ABA”) has an opinion piece on trial tips for lawyers. Below are 10 tips to help you prepare and succeed:

● Make a “To Do” List. You should put together a list of tasks that must be done prior to trial. These should include deadlines, witness outlines, and motions to be filed. Do not forget practical items such as lunch arrangements and supplies needed. Be sure to assign a team member for each task. Likewise, review your list regularly to ensure you are not forgetting anything.
● Check Out the Courtroom. A visit to the courtroom where the trial will take place is important for several reasons. You can identify any practical issues with the space. Likewise, you can identify any technical issues ahead of time. While some courtrooms are equipped with the latest technology, others do not have any in place. Be sure to know how to use the technology available in the courtroom and address any other issues that may be present.
● Read and Reread Everything. Be sure to re-read all pleadings, exhibits, depositions, key cases, and important court rulings. Understand that the complaint and answer establish the burden of proof at a trial. Be sure to have a deep understanding of the allegations, evidence, and applicable law.
● Have a Theme. Remember, you are telling a story at trial. Think about the strengths and weaknesses of your side of the case as well as your opponent’s. Every part of the trial should tell your client’s story: the opening statement, witness examinations, visual aids, and closing argument.
● Prepare Jury Instructions Early. It takes more time than you realize to prepare jury instructions. This also takes legal strategy. Master the applicable law and ensure that your jury instructions are prepared well in advance of trial. Use your jury instructions as a guide for what needs to be proven at trial.
For more trial tips, go to the ABA’s website.

Ancillary Legal is an experienced part of the process, if you need help with your case’s service of process contact us today.

An Arizona lawyer agreed to a two-month long suspension of his license after he was accused of coaching his client during a virtual trial by using the chat function on GoToMeeting, according to an article published by the American Bar Association (“ABA”) Journal.

 

The Situation

 

According to Law.com, the attorney was accused of messaging a client in a divorce proceeding during cross-examination by her estranged husband. The trial occurred in superior court Maricopa County, Arizona in September of 2020. The trial was conducted in a hybrid situation, where the judge was physically present in the courtroom and the other parties participated through GoToMeeting. The judge did not realize that the attorney was coaching his client until she had the opportunity to review the chat during cross-examination. According to the agreement for discipline by consent, the attorney was instructing the client to provide specific and substantive answers to questions being asked.

 

The judge instructed the attorney to stop, who agreed, but also claimed that the messages were the equivalent of him nodding or shaking his head in the courtroom while his client was being cross-examined in person.

 

Ethics Violations

 

The attorney conditionally admitted to violating several ethics rules including:

 

  • Fairness to opposing party;
  • Conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice; and
  • Conduct involving fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation.

 

All attorneys are subject to a “code of ethics,” no matter the jurisdiction under which their legal practice falls. Professional ethics is a code that governs the conduct of attorneys engaged in the practice of law and those who are not but are licensed. In fact, all professionals (attorneys or not) who work in the legal field are held to a certain level of professional ethics and duty toward the client, opposing party, court, and others. The code of professional conduct trumps all other duties, particularly when there is an ethical conflict of interests.

 

Every state has the responsibility of setting their own ethics rules that govern attorney behavior, which lay out guidelines for its state bar associations and attorneys seeking clarification on ethical choices they are confronting.

 

The judge ordered the attorney to complete the license suspension, which begins March 1st, plus a two-year probationary period, according to the final judgment. The attorney’s ethics lawyer indicated to Law.com that although his client has admitted inappropriate conduct and taken responsibility, he is also a young lawyer and the incident happened at the beginning of the pandemic when everyone was trying to figure out protocols with video proceedings.

 

Attorneys are stewards of personal and sensitive information provided to them by clients. Lawyers are also officers of the court and are in roles of public trust. The standards placed on attorneys are high, however, and lawyers must carefully mind ethics obligations to avoid running afoul of the rules. That being said, issues can arise. Below are tips on how to avoid ethical pitfalls and disciplinary action according to the American Bar Association (“ABA”) Journal.

 

Tips for Lawyers

 

Most states across the nation require training in ethics as part of lawyers’ continuing legal education requirements. With the economic challenges that have come as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, both recently licensed and experienced attorneys have had to reevaluate how they practice — and, sometimes, even their career paths. Law school training, however, may not have properly prepared attorneys (especially newer ones) on the ethical and business related challenges typically faced in small firm or solo practice. This leaves attorneys at these sized firms — both new and veteran — in a more vulnerable place when it comes to disciplinary complaints.

 

  • Create strong office management processes: Not only will this help make sure you can meet your clients’ needs, but a good system is critical for avoiding disciplinary issues. Basics should include a diary and docketing system to keep track of court filing deadlines, hearings, and statutes of limitations. Tickler systems for file reviews will ensure you do so at regular intervals and prevent things from slipping through the cracks;
  • Intake screening is key: Learning when to accept a potential client’s case and when to reject it is important. Discerning when a potential client will be difficult is a critical skill. Know that you do not have to take every potential client’s case but, rather, you can use discretion in client selection. Undertaking matters in diverse areas of law requires you learn those areas, possibly leaving you overwhelmed or unable to develop an expertise;
  • Client and third party funds are sacred: Repeat this to yourself on a daily basis. Lawyers have both a fiduciary and ethical duty to maintain, handle, and disburse client funds only for their intended purpose. These practices must be consistent with relevant rules and applicable law — so learn the trust accounting rules in your jurisdiction. Misuse of client’s funds will guarantee disciplinary action;
  • Communicate often: Lack of communication is one of the top complaints made against attorneys. When an attorney does not promptly respond to a client’s emails or phone calls, they become frustrated and dissatisfied. Ethical rules require attorneys to keep a client reasonably informed about their matters and promptly comply with reasonable requests;
  • Diligently follow-through: When clients’ matters are neglected, disciplinary charges often include lack of communication. If an attorney just stops working on a matter or delays his or her work, this can be a problem. Accepting a legal matter on behalf of a client requires diligent follow-through until the representation has finished.

 

For more legal practice tips from the ABA, click here.

For more legal tips on our blog, check out Tips for Young Litigators and Creating Opportunities in your Legal Career.

There is no way that we can get away from our online personas, whether we like it or not. When it comes to attorneys, however, getting hired by a potential client is the result of one click and one page of search engines. Oftentimes, the internet is the first and possibly the only chance for an attorney to showcase his or her credibility and experience to a potential client. It is no exaggeration that the internet has made it a more competitive market to capture clients in industries across the board, and the legal field is no exception to this trend. For this reason, a lawyer’s online reputation is critical. Below is some information on how attorneys can improve their image on the internet, according to the American Bar Association (“ABA”) Journal.

Reputation Management

Whether or not you are an attorney seeking clients, online reputation management is a critical aspect of any business. For lawyers, potential clients are particularly careful and diligent about using information found online so that they can choose an attorney whom they can trust and is worthy of their money and time. According to iLawyerMarketing, as many as 98% of potential clients perform online searches, primarily on Google, and look at reviews prior to deciding to hire an attorney. A prior study found that if reviews for one attorney are higher or better than another, a potential client was willing to travel further to meet with that attorney at his or her office.

Not surprisingly, the best way to defend your online reputation is to have a strategic offense. Three steps you can take today to improve this include:

 

Monitor, monitor, monitor: Perform a search of yourself and/or your firm and pay close attention to the content on the first couple of pages that appear. Data shows that most people stay on the first Google search page, while 75% on the first one or two results of that page, and only 7% move on past the first page. Controlling your top results will provide a good first impression to others. Ways you can monitor your online reputation include:

 

 Ask for client reviews: Unfortunately, one bad online review can have long-term negative effects on your firm’s reputation. Because attorneys have several profession-specific review sites, such as Avvo, FindLaw, Martindale-Hubell, and Lawyers.com, they must be regularly updated. Many attorney review sites allow lawyers to claim their own profiles and add content to show off practice focus areas and expertise. Attorneys can encourage clients to leave online reviews of the legal work performed including:

  • Star ratings of service;
  • Sharing feedback of experience with attorney;
  • Stating whether they would hire you again.

 

Crank out content: In order to stand out on the first page of a Google search, your website must be professional and highlight your legal specialties. In addition to this, however, an attorney can and should regularly contribute to the industry. This can include legal blogs, bylined articles, op-eds, links to recent interviews, feature articles, and brief commentary to name a few. This is because thoughtful content in nearly any form can directly impact lead generation. Research by marketing firm Impact revealed that firms with online content generate nearly 90% more leads than those without it.

 

For more information on this topic, visit the ABA Journal website.

For additional legal career articles, check out Creating opportunities in your legal career in 2021