Nobody likes attorneys. I can't say that I blame them. We seem to profit from the worst that life has to offer, death, wrongful death, serious injury, divorce, criminal charges, and fights with family or neighbors to name a few. The list is almost infinite. All of these circumstances involve a lot of feelings and emotions. Anger, pain, frustration, and betrayal are all at the top of the list. These are not the ideal times to make the best decisions. What you probably don't know, and what most attorneys will not tell you, is that filing a lawsuit is usually not the best or most efficient way to resolve your problems. The process of filing a law suit and going to court by its very nature is SLOW, EXPENSIVE, EMOTIONALLY DRAINING, FRUSTRATING, IMPERFECT, A LOT OF TIMES UNJUST, AND CAN REALLY BE A GAMBLE. When you come to an attorney you are looking for someone who will understand your situation and give you the very best advice possible, preferably without concern for what is in their own best interest. You do not want someone who will simply tell you what you want to hear, or that you have a slam dunk case just to get a retainer. You need an attorney who will give you an honest evaluation of your case, let you know your chances in court, the pros and cons, what it will cost (not only upfront but in the end), what are the problems or weaknesses in your case, and a realistic estimate of how long it will take.
If you don't have a good case, why not hear that upfront before you pay a huge retainer based on unrealistic expectations. Some attorneys will over sell the strength of your case, take the retainer, then let you down slowly as the case progresses. It's always better to have a realistic evaluation and know what the strengths and weaknesses are and then you can make an educated decision about whether you want to expend the time, money and energy to pursue the case. Sometimes, I have potential clients who are upset when I shoot them straight about their case. They want to shop attorneys until they find one who will tell them what they want to hear. They think I don't want to fight it out in court, or that I'm scared when I tell them the obvious problems with their case and am honest about the natural pitfalls of the process. The reality is that I play square. I shoot straight. I love going to court and I love a good argument! It's my job. It's how I make money. When I take on a case, I want a client who knows what I know and has made an informed decision. I have nothing to gain and everything to lose by being honest with potential clients about their case.
There are a number of pitfalls in cases. In a custody case there are so many ways to lose your case that they can't all be listed. Some major problems include cohabitation, drug use, drinking, keeping the child from the other parent without a really good reason, misuse of social media, and too many more to mention. A good attorney will find out if any of these are potential issues and give you good advice. An attorney might have to tell you to stop doing some things you have been doing. These might be things you don't want to hear, but you need to hear them and you need good advice about how to fix any mistakes that have already been made. You need honesty, candor, and reality. If you don't get brutally honest advice, it will hurt you in court, and to add insult to injury it will have cost you a lot of money and time to do it.
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Thursday, August 28, 2014
Tuesday, August 26, 2014
Judges are professional lie detectors. Thats what they do. Its their job day in and day out. For years they have been weighing and judging the credibility of witnesses. They can smell deception from a mile away. If you believe you can come into court and snow a judge think again. Your best bet when testifying in court is candor, honesty, sincerity. Be real and be genuine. If you have messed up own the mistake and come clean and tell the judge how and what you are doing to fix the mistake. If you do this you will find credibility. If you don't you risk not only losing credibility but you also risk being found in contempt and hauled away in handcuffs like the opposing party in a case I tried not too long ago. The opposing party was caught lying on the stand. Not only did he go to jail but had to pay attorneys fees as well. You never go wrong telling the truth and being real!
When you are on the witness stand make sure you have the proper demeanor. Attitude can say a lot about you. Most of our communication is nonverbal. Make sure you are polite, courteous, and respectful to the judge and the opposing attorney. Don't let yourself become frustrated or flustered. Stay cool, calm, and collected. When the opposing attorney is asking you questions listen carefully to the question you are asked and answer only the question you are asked. Attorneys know how to talk and certainly know how to ask questions to find out what they want to know. Don't volunteer information that you were not asked about. If a point needs to be elaborated on then your own attorney will ask you to explain.
Make sure you dress appropriately for court. If you are not sure what would be appropriate to wear make sure to ask your attorney. Court is not a place to make a very loud or extreme fashion statement. Especially in custody cases you want to be conservative in what you wear and in your appearance. Generally speaking exposed body piercings are a bad idea as well as extreme, vulgar, or violent looking tattoos. There was a case where a party got on the witness stand and had an exposed tattoo of a bullet on his arm with his ex-wife's name tattooed inside the bullet. I would have counseled him to cover it up.
Generally speaking what other people say or have told you is not admissible in court. The major exception to this is what the opposing party has said. These type of statements are called hearsay. They don't have to be verbal statements. They apply to texts, emails, or other documents. As a general rule when you testify in court you cannot tell the judge what someone else has said unless it is the opposing party.
Make sure your attorney meets with you before court and goes over with you what they will ask and what they expect the opposing attorney to ask you. Ask them what to wear. Ask them if the judge has any pet peeves. Make sure you know where the court house is, what time to be there, and what you can bring with you into the court house. Make sure you know what to expect and are prepared to testify.
Judges like witnesses and parties who are reasonable, rational, level headed, respectful, truthful, cooperative, candid, and who look respectable. Witnesses or parties who lose their cool, get frustrated, raise their voice, are combative, speak with an attitude or tone, or who are not honest with the judge lose credibility. Don't split hairs. Call a spade a spade. If you slipped up admit it quickly and most of all let the judge hear it from you first instead of not mentioning it until the opposing attorney asks you about it. From the minute you walk into court judges are sizing you up. You want to make a favorable impression. When you don't make a favorable impression or you lose credibility it is very bad for your case and will very likely effect the outcome of the case. Hopefully you won't find yourself in court but if you do these tips will help you out.