By Mag. Tiffany U. Vivo, Marion Superior Court
I recently happened upon a speech written by Moosa Y. Jiwaji, a seasoned lawyer and member of the Alberta Bar in Canada. Jiwaji gave this address to newly admitted members of the Roll of Advocates at the Supreme Court, Nairobi in January 2016. Jiwaiji’s speech caught my attention because it is a good reminder of the relationships that exist as lawyers and the obligations associated with those relationships. While the speech was meant to give insight and inspiration to lawyers just ready to embark into the legal profession, Jiwaji’s message is as applicable to those who have been practicing law as it was to those young and eager lawyers ready to take on their new challenge.
Jiwaji emphasized that there are four crucial relationships in a lawyer’s career. Those relationships are to the court, opposing counsel, the client and yourself. Here is a summary of some of the important and helpful points Jiwaji makes regarding these relationships and the obligations associated with them:
- Always come prepared. You are wasting the court’s time when you are not prepared.
- Do not mislead or provide the court with information that you know is not true.
- If you lose an argument, behave gracefully. Remain respectful of the judge’s rulings. Be cognizant of your body language. Do not argue with the judge. If you must make a point, do so respectfully.
- Be alert to what the judge is trying to tell you. Instead of belaboring a point, take your cue from the judge about where s/he would like you to go.
- Listen to the judge’s question and answer it. If needed, ask for clarification of the question.
Your Opposing Counsel
- Be polite and civil when communicating.
- Bring evidence to their attention as early as possible. Do not ambush them with new evidence.
- Advise rather than surprise them with pleadings you intend to file.
- If you know of case law of which s/he may not be aware, share it with them. It may help resolve matters quicker.
- Own your mistakes. Apologize as soon as it comes to your attention.
- Do not make promises. Give your client a fair assessment of the case, including possible outcomes. Be open to settlement.
- Keep your relationship professional.
- Do not hesitate to terminate the attorney-client relationship when there is a breakdown.
- Your reputation and dignity are your valuable assets as a lawyer: protect them.
- Behave professionally in public and within the legal community.
- Work hard. Prepare. Do your research.
- Give back to your community.
- Your family is important. Make time for them.
- Take care of your health by eating right and exercising. Your family needs you.
Jiwaji’s points may seem obvious. Now and then, however, it doesn’t hurt to be reminded.
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