Listen, I understand everyone’s busy. I’m no great lawyer myself and I’m also pretty swamped. But realize that we are the only thing standing between the government and our client’s liberty. Be informed.
So please, take the time to read appellate decisions. They come out once or twice a week and take about half an hour to read. You don’t have to be like me, reading them at the first opportunity . . . .
The more you know, the better a lawyer you will be. I know how I’ve improved. For your client’s sake, you should do it too.
In a comment to his post, a loyal reader notes:
I used to work as a law clerk for an appellate judge. We were required to read all opinions from the appellate courts of that state. I would get the opinions hot off the press, and if any were interesting, I would fax to my prosecutor buddy. One time, he told me that the very next day, he referenced a case I had sent to him while arguing a motion. Defense counsel hadn’t heard of the decision yet. I would bet that, at the very least, if you are citing hot off the press cases in your oral presentations to the judge, you will gain credibility with the judge and the prosecutors, which will help you help your clients.Another reader said:
You HAVE to not only have a good grasp of the case law to begin with, you have to keep up with it. It’s one reason I preach motions practice to my mentees. If you aren’t doing motions, you aren’t reading case law; and if you aren’t reading caselaw, you’re letting at least some people go down who shouldn’t have. The only thing that even comes close in importance is elements analysis.Staying current on our reading is hard work. It requires discipline and planning especially with all the other demands of law practice bearing down upon us. But there's a guaranteed pay off.
Even the best of lawyers need a reminder now and then about staying sharp. Great advice from a great lawyer. Thanks Gideon for reminding us how to keep our quiver full of sharp arrows.