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    How to Feed a Lawyer (and Other Irreverent Observations from the Legal Underground)

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Comments

Eh Nonymous

As that young lawyer... just kidding.

That's hilarious, and unfortunate that the junior lawyer had to be duped. If he'd been a good enough actor, he could have been _told_ ahead of time that this was a wash witness, suitable for batting practice for a newbie. Then he could preen himself up, put on a fancy suit, and look delighted at himself as he asked the cross-exam questions.

Meanwhile, the other lawyers present on his side would ignore him, catch up on paperwork, and otherwise pretend nothing important was going on.

Then he could sit down, proudly, and the other lawyers could smirk.

That would work just fine, without lying to anyone, including the jury.

Rufus

It's a funny story, but I think the lead lawyer overestimated the jury's ability to make a distinction between the lead lawyer and the junior lawyer. Most jurors would assume that if the junior lawyer is at the trial and actually doing work then he is a competent lawyer and that the witnesses he questions must have some relevance to the case. I doubt that they sat in the jury room and said, Witness X's testimony is irrelevant because the "kid" cross examined him.

mythago

I'd agree--it's one thing to tell a newbie "Look, this isn't important, so go ahead and get some practice on it," and another to pull this kind of gotcha.

All Writs

The story is oft told and true. Juries aren't stupid, they know who the lead lawyer is and who is a newby. The first clue is the newby looks under 30 (or 35 depending on the lawyer), lead counsel is normally in his mid to late forties or older. You don't give the "kid" an imprtance witness.

The only advantage having a junior associate doing cross over merely standing up and saying "no questions" (in both cases the jury realizes the witness is either unimportant or said nothing that hurt you) is that the associate gets a little batting practice with real witnesses, real objections, oh yeah, and real butterflies.

Finally, if you tell the associate in advance it is a nothing witness you lose the benefit of them learning inspite of their fear.

mythago _

Because they wouldn't normally have any fear at all of getting up in front of the court, jury, and their boss to do a cross-examination?

Beldar

An unimportant witness, when badly mishandled, can quickly and irreparably become an important witness. Assuming that the senior lawyer understood this, then the young associate should have been pleased by the implied vote of confidence. That he felt he'd been played a fool speaks poorly of his maturity. The appropriate response would have been to nod, ponder, and file the tactic away for possible future use himself. Retelling the story for years thereafter might indeed have been appropriate — but humorously and self-depricatingly, as a sharing of lore and wisdom, rather than to seek sympathy for how he'd been abused. The truth did indeed contain an important lesson for the young lawyer, but it sounds as though his ego prevented him from learning it.

Evan

Beldar: Good comment. I'm glad you added your perspective.

mythago

What 'implied vote of confidence'? There was an overt vote of non-confidence.

Jon

Mythango, I think the 'implied vote of confidence' was in giving the young lawyer the chance to cross examine someone who, while unimportant if the cross was done correctly, could be disasterous if done incorrectly. The senior litigator was confident that the junior would not foul it up to that degree. Compredre-vous?

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