The skill of the legal professional is to convey complex themes in clear and straight forward language. When I started my training contract my Principal told me that I should never use ten words, when one will do and never try to hide behind complex language. Across the years I have found that the real skill is saying what you mean without meaning what you say.
Use this handy guide to work out what is really going on.
My friend – The lawyer standing next to me, I’m not his friend but I cannot say “The unreasonable bastard who will not listen to my point of view”
My learned friend – The lawyer standing next to me who decided he didn’t like to work at nights or get grubby at the police station and joined the Bar
I am instructed – Look I know its pure fantasy and scarcely credible but that’s what the client wants me to say. I am saying “I am instructed” so you know that I am not a total idiot and that I don’t believe it either
My client deeply regrets his actions – My client deeply regrets that the police were standing at the corner of the road and saw him bottle the other bloke or else he would have gotten away with it
If I might have a moment to confirm that with my client – Bugger, bugger, bugger how do I know?
My client is actively seeking work – He has been to the job centre and looked at the job ads in the local paper in the last month
It is very unlikely that you will see my client before you again – He knows now how the police caught him the first time and is very unlikely to make that mistake again
In a reported case – I don’t have any case authorities but I am sure that there must be some (When I used to appear at Medway Magistrates, I used to cross swords with an Australian who was on secondment to the CPS and he did this all the time, when we pressed him to name his authority he would always concede he was referring to one of his cases in Australia that had made the local newspaper!)
If you are not with me on that point – I am trying to persuade you to do something you don’t want to do and if I can’t the chap behind me is going down for a long time, so go on just do it
From the Bench
Is there anything else you would like to say on behalf of your client – Shut up, sit down, we had made the decision long before you stood up and started bleating at us
We have listened very carefully to what your advocate has said on your behalf – Now that he has shut up and sat down we are going to do the polar opposite of what he asked, and implement that decision
We find that neither the Prosecution or the Defence witnesses in this matter are credible – We have just sat through three hours of the two of you slagging each other off in front of us and are not amused
In the absence of direct evidence on the point I have applied my common sense (a line regularly used by a resident DJ who used to sit in my local court) – Guilty
There are significant grounds to believe that you will…(in the context of a bail application) – You are a nasty piece of work and there is no way we are letting you out today
I’m not sure we follow the argument, could you explain it again? – We haven’t been listening to a word you have said and suddenly realised we are now expected to make a ruling on it
Thank you, you have been most helpful – We were wavering whether to grant your client bail, acquit him or impose a non-custodial sentence, now we will definitely not be getting bail, is guilty and is going to prison
In the Police Station
We will be ready in thirty minutes – You will turn up in thirty minutes, wait around the front office for another thirty minutes and then spend another thirty minutes looking imploringly at the Custody Sgt for any signs of life. Then and only then will we come down with a mug of tea and a stupid grin on our faces!
The officer will be right down – See above
The officer is just finishing another interview but will be ready really soon – See above
(At 3am) – Your client wants another chat with you – He has banged on his cell door for the past four hours and we have had to switch the call buzzer off. Why should we be the only ones that have to put up with him?
(In response to the question – Has the victim made a statement?) He has been spoken to – We don’t have a statement, we are never going to get a statement but we really hope your client will just cough it anyway
Would you like to make any representations on bail? – You know and I know your client is going to be kept in for court tomorrow!
(Officer to Custody Sgt) – Client nearly made a full and frank admission – Client accepted he was there but denied the actual offence
I’m not prepared to disclose that – If I told you that, then it would be very likely that you would know more than me on this case and I would feel inadequate
We would be prepared to offer him a caution if he were to admit the offence – We don’t think we have enough evidence to charge but really need the statistic
We are not here to trip you up, all we want is the truth – Come on you little toe rag we all know you did it, just admit it and we can all go home
The necessity for an arrest was to secure and preserve evidence and for the purposes of interview – Look I caught a criminal, and that’s what I get paid to do, just authorise his detention
In the Office
You were next on my list to return your call – Good grief, I’ve only got one head and two hands and I can’t be expected to do everything!
From secretary I’ve gone through your files and sorted them as to priority – Will you please get on today and brief Counsel and do that statement? The trial is next week!
To Receptionist – Can you tell him I am out and will call him as soon as I can? – I really cannot stand talking to that man again today
Receptionist to Client – He is out of the office at the moment but he says he can be reached on his mobile 07… – Why should I do your dirty work?
Boss to Me (very often) – Are you busy? – Accounts have told me what you billed last month, pull your finger out, I’m not paying you to sit around all day
(to be continued)