By Umar Sa’ad Hassan
The best students in school don’t necessarily turn out the best lawyers. While academic excellence rests almost entirely on the time and devotion to studies, success in the real world is for those that best apply skills that are acquired in the natural course of practice. Those skills for emphasis, are almost never taught in schools. Let’s walk through 3 things every lawyer should know that aren’t taught in law school.
RESCUE YOUR WITNESS ALWAYS. ITS A BUSINESS STRATEGY TOO
You give your witnesses a pep talk and prepare them for their testimonies but the real job starts when he is on the stand. The most undesirable moment for an advocate is when his witness loses composure as a result of lawyers trying very hard with their questions to make the impossible possible.It is the responsibility of a wise counsel at this point to object not because a ground arose, but to enable his witness gain back his footing. Go as hard as possible. Asides from buying time,it is a psychological booster for the witness to know you are in it with him and haven’t abandoned him. The lawyer is trained to remain calm as long as the line of questioning isn’t doing any real damage to that paragraph of the final address he has in mind but then one has to balance that with the need to keep his side motivated. Ultimately the lay man may not understand that no harm was done to his case,all he knows is that he or his witness were being hit hard with questions while the lawyer just sat there and did nothing.Even if you end up winning the case,he may attribute it to luck and search for a ‘better’ lawyer next time.
DON’T BE CAUGHT IN JUDGE’S CROSS HAIRS.BE ARMED ALWAYS
There are basically 3 types of judges when they get stuck in court-First,the ones that listen to submissions of counsel to see which is more persuasive,then the ones that shove pride aside and adjourn to research and rule.Thirdly,the ones who never accept they don’t know and proceed to scrape out a ruling; valid or not.No matter how sure you are of the position of the law on whatever is in dispute,you won’t make any head way with category 1 and 3 unless you have full case citations in court.Otherwise,you have to take whatever is given to you.Most judges in that position are more inclined to tilt towards the position of a ‘Supreme Court’ authority or at the very least,thread more carefully.Yes,there are bound to be impossible situations.Like i remember once being asked by a magistrate to supply an authority on why there cannot be a reply on points of law to a reply on points of law after an application and objection.Its so elementary its a no-win there and then but it really won’t hurt to always have a collection of authorities close by on as many issues as you can.It could be at the back of your diary,in a jotter or book.No matter how long you don’t get to use it for,it is the right play and you will need it some day.
NETWORK…MINGLE & TINGLE
If you are a young lawyer whether with your own firm or not,It is not just enough to be good.You have to ‘network’; build and cultivate relationships with your seniors and peers to adapt to these times.Lawyers don’t set up shop and wait for customers to stroll in,the most connected reap the most fruits.In this age of social media,a lot get to actively campaign for NBA candidates not necessarily because they believe they have what it takes to lead but because they are looking to establish and manage relationships not just with the candidate himself but with other ‘chairmen’ on the same ship.The best at doing this establish life long relationships while the lesser skilled part ways with maybe a N2M-N3M ‘deed of assignment’ runs.Think how much even the impatient learner can get from 4 or 5 ‘Anything For Your Boy,Sir?’ arrangements in 1 year.Maybe enough to even start a side hustle.If you are a private lawyer,the value of social relationships cannot be over-emphasized.Mingle,tingle and bingo!.
Umar Sa’ad Hassan is a lawyer based in Kano
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