My Early Mentors : I 'll Call Him James

1005 WordsSep 3, 20165 Pages
One of my early mentors — I’ll call him James — was a well-known trial lawyer in Peoria. I met James in January 1983, the same month that I opened my law practice. He started out by giving me research and writing projects. Before long, I was covering his court hearings and helping him prepare cases for trial. Several of James’ opponents had a nickname for him — “the gentle interrogator.” The name described him perfectly. Whenever James cross-examined a witness, he was a perfect gentleman. Because he came across as a kind, gentlemanly lawyer, most witnesses would let their guard down and reveal information that no other lawyer would be able to get from them. I never saw James get angry. Not once. He was always cool, calm, and in control. I envied James because he had qualities that I lacked. More often than not, when I questioned a witness, I would get irritated. If a witness was evasive or failed to cooperate, instead of gently leading the witness in the direction that I wanted the witness to go, I would become hostile and aggressive. My behavior would cause the witness to become defensive and more evasive. I thought about James last week when I sat through a 3-hour deposition of one of my clients. A deposition is a court-related procedure in which a witness or party to a case is questioned by the lawyers who are involved in the case. Depositions are ordinarily scheduled to take place in a lawyer’s office with a court reporter present. After the deposition, the court

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