This week I am in trial preparation mode and only this morning checked my email for the past five days. In my email I found a post to a blog written by Trial Lawyers College great, Paul Luvera. Luvera is a master of the game and a wonderful teacher. If you are a lawyer reading this, go to his blog and learn from his years of experience. Today’s message from Paul – entitled Random Thoughts – begins with a quote from Shakespeare’s Hamlet:
"When sorrows come – they come not single spies – but in battalions."
He goes on to point out that "nothing ever goes the way it is planned or expected when it comes to trial work." Like those sorrows, our cases tend to unravel first by a thread and then by the entire cloth. We need to keep focussed on our end game. We need to keep working toward resolution of the case, preparing to win while recognizing that something will come undone – and then something else. When that happens we look at ourselves and question whether we have done enough for the case and for the client. That’s where those sleepless nights come in – over and over again.
In a recent case I had that eleventh hour complication every lawyer fears. Some little fact the client had left "unsaid" until the night before she was to testify. That "little gem" would have given the prosecutor the door to run a train through our case, so we decided to not call our client to the stand. That created additional problems because in opening I had told the jury they would hear certain testimony which seemingly could only come from my client. Not a single problem, a battalion of problems created because I did not have the "whole" story. The client had not trusted me with the entire truth.
So how does a criminal defense lawyer, or any other trial lawyer handle this type of problem during trial of the case? You’ve gotta’ be quick on your feet. And even then, you may not recover. It is better to know all the case before, than get to trial and discover that one fact that betrays you.
Off to meet with a client. Luvera has inspired me to talk in ernest with him about that one little spy in the case. Seems almost certain to me that there is a battalion out there waiting to attack my flank if I am not fully fortified in my defense, and experienced trial lawyers know that preparation is the only fortification we have. F. Lee used to say "the defense is never ready, enough."
If you are a lawyer with a "spy" problem – send in a comment and start a discussion here. How do we best prepare for the coming battalion?
If you are have a legal problem, do the same. If I can’t help, perhaps I can put you in touch with someone who can.