Recently, I had the opportunity to accompany Mr. Smith to court, and observe a trial for one of his cases. When I arrived at the courthouse, I was greeted by Mr. Smith, and given an overview of the case. I was very impressed with the amount of research Mr. Smith had done to prepare. He arrived with a briefcase full of notes and related cases to reference during the trial, along with copies that he would be providing for the court. I never realized until that moment just how much planning goes into representing someone in a trial. You must anticipate any possible scenario in which your argument could go in the wrong direction. You must have the ability to think on your feet and use the notes and cases you prepared with to steer your argument back in the right direction. During the trial, Mr. Smith had to do just that. The Judge was going to grant a petition for Grandparent Visitation that was undesirable to Mr. Smith’s client, but Mr. Smith recognized the possibility. He then changed his approach, and was more aggressive against those particular petitions. He cited two past cases supporting his argument, and got very animated in his closing statement to drive the point home. His argument was so convincing that the Judge changed his mind, and denied the petition of the Grandparents.
The information Mr. Smith collected for his case was obviously instrumental in the denial of the appeal, but he showed me that the way it was used was even more important. Deciding when to reveal certain information and when to pocket it for a later time can make or break your case. I noticed Mr. Smith would not reveal all of the evidence he had gathered when questioning the opposite party, but rather, he would let them answer his questions even if they were not being truthful without protesting. I didn’t understand why he was doing this until his closing statement. In his closing statement, Mr. Smith began to go back through the case, piece by piece, proving the opposite party had not been truthful. By saving his information for the closing statement, he essentially took away any credibility they had, and made it impossible for the Judge to consider granting their petitions.
Afterwards, Mr. Smith pulled me aside to ask me what I thought about the trial. I told him how impressed I was, and we spoke for a bit. I commented that I had been confused at him not contradicting the other party during the trial with the evidence he had, but that I understood when he summarized at the end. He replied that being a lawyer is a lot like chess; you always have to stay one step ahead of your opponent.C. Wilson, Virginia Tech College Student