Posted: Monday, 27 February 2023 @ 14:31
The nature of my work means that for a number of the clients we ends up in a final Court hearing.
When I do prepare those cases for trial (be it on my own or with assistance from a barrister) it is worth considering what is the most influential time for determining if the case will be won or not in Court?
Or in the run up to a Court decision, what is the most effective work a lawyer can do to help a client win in Court?
I am a firm believer that the most effective work is not actually done on the trial date when you speak to the Judge, but typically three days before when you submit what is called a Skeleton Argument to the Judge.
The Skeleton Argument is a succint summary of my client's case and why my client should get the outcome he or she is looking for.
When I appear in Court most (but not all) Judges have read my Skeleton Argument, my opponents and they have looked at the trial bundle which they would have received three days before trial as well.
By the time a Judge appears in Court before me, he or she may have already decided what is going to happen.
I have turned up to Court and it is clear what kind of approach the Judge is going to take.
Thus often a Skeleton Argument has primary importance in determining the outcome.
To influence the impact of the Skeleton Argument there are certain things I do which are all designed to help, including:
1 Keep it Succint. The goal of the lawyer is to have a full understanding of the case, the legal issues and to harness that in a positive way designed to win in Court. The Skeleton Argument needs to be compressed as you need to show respect for the time of the Judge.
2 Be organised. I am very careful to selectively reference documents and number them and help the Judge through the issue. What you are trying to do is to make your Skeleton Argument the one the judge needs to look at as the judge develops understanding of the case.
3 Address Weaknesses. Once I was in Court with an opposing lawyer who was quite open and humble in dealing with a weakness in his client's case. I am not sure if I would have gone to his extent of being so open in using such blunt language but if there are weaknesses there is something to be said for being upfront before rather than on the day of the hearing. Deal with them early.