It is the day of your hearing. You walk down the hallway towards your assigned department and spot your attorney. She greets you with a “Good morning. It’s game day. Here we go!” You enter the courtroom with your attorney. She litigates your case, recites the facts and case law to the Judge, and requests for the Court to rule in your favor. The Judge makes an order and the hearing you have been losing sleep over, is finally over.
Often, the well anticipated hearing is the culmination of work that has gone on for months, if not longer. Some of the work has been alongside the client, such as gathering facts and evidence together. However, not all the work that goes into attending a hearing or finalizing a person’s case is seen by the client.
As an attorney, I believe it is important to shed light on some of things going on in the background of your case, because many clients want to know why hiring an attorney can be expensive. The truth is, most of the work that needs to be done to present a client’s case to a Judge or to finalize a client’s case even when a hearing is not required, happens behind the scenes.
Long before our greetings to you in the court hallway the morning of your hearing, we will have strategized the best options of your case. This often involves us brainstorming with a colleague or a partner within our firm. Our office typically has meetings on all of our cases so that at least two (2) attorneys in our office have knowledge of all the facts of the case, status updates on what is pending, and what is yet to be done. For me, having another attorney to bounce ideas with is great, as although we all have knowledge and experience in the law, our experience on particular issues or dealing with particular judges may differ. Sometimes, two heads are truly better than one. Most importantly, if one attorney is out of the office on one particular day (either out sick or at a hearing on another case) and a client calls to request an update on their case, there will be a second attorney with knowledge of the client’s case, or in office to answer the client’s questions.
Reviewing the law
Every case is different because the facts differ from one case to the next. As such, this requires me as your attorney to review case law that is best suited for your case. Although I have years of experience in Family Law and am able to recite much of the Family Code by memory, the law is often changing and/or being revised. Therefore, typically we are tasked with making sure we have updated case law and that we know about any changes to relevant codes within our field. The reason for this is that often, when making an argument to a Judge, the Judge will want to know what law or case you have to back up your argument. It will be then that all of our hard work reviewing the law prior to your hearing, will have paid off. Many times, having a case that directs the Court to the outcome you are requesting can make all the difference in a case.
Preparing for the actual hearing or trial
If your case requires attendance at a hearing, typically our job as your attorney involves reviewing your case file before the hearing. For me personally, I like to have the facts fresh in my mind prior to entering the courtroom. This often involves memorizing facts such as the date of marriage, the date of separation, minor children’s ages, names, and specific facts of incidents that have occurred during the case. As my mentor during law school would say “You need to know your case facts like the back of your hand.”
Further, if your case involves a hearing that requires examination of witnesses, examination questions are prepared prior to the hearing. This means I will have to prepare examination questions for all witnesses involved in your case and make sure that each question is phrased in a way that will eliminate objections from the opposing side or Judge, as much as possible. Examination questions are specifically tailored to a client’s case facts and case law relevant to that client’s case. This process may require hours of brainstorming and analysis.
One thing a client might not consider is that in the background, our office has to prepare all of the client’s documents for filing, prepare binders necessary to attend a hearing, deposition or meeting, or organize a client’s evidence and/or exhibits necessary to carry out a specific task in the client’s case. Although the administrative side of a case may not seem important, without organization and preparation of a client’s case file, most hearings, depositions and/or meeting would not go as smoothly.
When I am assigned a case, I prepare myself mentally to take on my client’s legal problems. After all, being an attorney involves assisting a client in resolving their current issues in a case. Hiring an attorney thus means a client is paying for an attorney’s time to take on their legal issues, come up with analysis and strategy as to how to best approach each issue in the case, and deal with court personnel and opposing counsel. If you ask me, having another person carry your legal issues with you, is well worth the money.
By: Gisela Acevedo, Esq., Attorney at Contreras Law Firm