The rules of evidence made easy

Liftfact:

I've never noticed dramatic music in my practice, although sometimes the docket clerk's iPod is loud enough that I can hear Tupac blaring through the headphones. Other than that, music is noticeably absent from my legal dealings.

The holidays are over, and it's back to voicemails, docket settings and depositions. As if that isn't depressing enough, the end of the holidays also signals the end of TV show marathons on cable. During my time off, I enjoyed watching 20 straight episodes of "Matlock." (My husband probably did not enjoy it as much as I did as my personal hygiene may have suffered a bit during those times. Who has time for a shower when Matlock is honing in on the killer? And no one can pull off wearing a seersucker suit quite like he can.)

One of my favorite TV marathons this holiday season was "Law and Order" (me and residents in nursing homes everywhere). I watched several episodes recently (while fading in and out of naps), and I noticed that "Law and Order" really isn't like the practice of law in the real world (if it were, I would plea bargain every time I had a case with Jack McCoy). Since I had nothing but time on my hands (and jelly from that donut), I formulated a list of the ways "Law and Order" is different from the actual practice of law.

1. Witnesses always have a great memory.

Whenever witnesses are interviewed on the show, they are able to recall specific details including the exact time of the incident and the type of cologne the "perp" was wearing. (I love using the lingo.) That's not necessarily how my interviews with witnesses play out. When I interview witnesses it takes me 20 minutes to figure out they weren't even there at the time of the event. However, before I discover that, I learn about their wife's cousin's brother who caught his girlfriend cheating so he shanked her with a butter knife. Oh, and could I help him with that legal jam?

2. Motions are always hand delivered in a folded blue document.

Maybe it's just me, but motions are never hand-delivered to me. They're usually faxed to my office at 4:57 p.m. in the hopes I will miss them. In fact, most of my mail comes to me crumpled up and smudged with chocolate or peanut butter or whatever the receptionist was eating when she received the document.

3. Attorneys always have meaningful discussions with their boss about the issues.

This just doesn't seem accurate. In what universe are three lawyers available at the same time to discuss legal issues? We are usually running around, yelling on the phone or drafting those crafty motions on blue paper. Even if you successfully gather three lawyers together, we definitely aren't going to talk about a case. We will probably discuss the drunk associate at last month's Christmas party or the new judge's belief she can pull off short skirts (she can't). Further, every boss I know in the legal arena is always on some important call or running to a deposition. Come to think of it, perhaps that's just what my boss tells me so he doesn't have to talk to me.

4. The rules of evidence don't apply during cross examination.

In the show, the lawyers constantly testify on cross examination without any regard for a question or answer format. During these moments, the other attorney apparently goes into a coma and fails to object to the most obvious of things, which is alarming considering in pre-trial the same attorney objected to everything from court dates to the color of opposing counsel's tie.

5. There's always dramatic music.

I've never noticed dramatic music in my practice, although sometimes the docket clerk's iPod is loud enough that I can hear Tupac blaring through the headphones. Other than that, music is noticeably absent from my legal dealings. Don't get me wrong, I wish I had music to accompany my legal arguments. However, I'm pretty sure my theme song wouldn't have anything to do with justice or good lawyering. Come to think of it, it would probably be the theme song from "Sanford and Son."

Those are just a few of the discrepancies I noted over the break. I'm sure there are many more, but I shall save those observations for another day. After all, another episode is about to start and if I miss the beginning, I may miss some hearsay testimony. BUM-BUM.

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Lisa Henderson-Newlin is a member of the law firm McAnany Van Cleave and Phillips. Contact Under Analysis by email at comments@levisongroup.com.

© 2012 Under Analysis L.L.C.

Published: Fri, Jan 13, 2012

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