Trial Lawyers Section keeps an eye on malpractice legislation

first_img Trial Lawyers Section keeps an eye on malpractice legislation March 1, 2003 Regular News Trial Lawyers Section keeps an eye on malpractice legislationcenter_img Monitoring legislation, including medical malpractice issues, and promoting professionalism are among the top priorities this year of the Trial Lawyers Section.Reporting to the Board of Governors recently, section Chair Dominic Caparello said the trial lawyers are traditionally involved in legislative matters and this year will be no different.He noted that the section represents all types of trial attorneys, including the personal injury and defense bar. “We are a balanced group, we represent all trial lawyers in the state of Florida,” Caparello said. “Our primary emphasis will be access to the courts and preservation of our jury system.”The section continues to publish a professionalism handbook, which is given to all new Bar members. “Hopefully, it is a guide on how we should act as lawyers and in litigation,” he said.The section is also continuing to distribute its highly regarded discovery handbook, Caparello said, and many judges are now using it as the standard reference to resolve discovery disputes.A new project this year is a program to explore containing expert witness costs. Caparello said he participated in a recent case where the costs exceeded $1 million, with most of that attributable to expert witnesses.The section continues to be active in CLE programs, including offering intermediate and advanced trial training. For the intermediate courses, “We have a number of instructors — seasoned lawyers and judges, federal and state — and during a week we teach aspiring trial lawyers how to try cases,” he said.The advanced course includes barristers from London, and the section reciprocates by sending experienced lawyers to an English CLE program.For the June Annual Meeting, Caparello said, the section is planning a different program for its Chester Bedell Memorial Luncheon. This year will feature a performer from New York, doing “The Clarence Darrow Story.”last_img read more

Tips for the Young Lawyer

first_imgHow to interview a witness September 1, 2003 Francisco Ramos Regular News Tips for the Young Lawyercenter_img Whether your case involves a car accident, a supervisor’s sexual advances, or a slip-and-fall, witnesses can make or break your case. It’s your job to find out which witnesses will sway a jury in your client’s favor and which ones will sway a jury in your opponent’s favor.To accomplish this, you need a game plan to find out what witnesses will say to a jury and how they will say it. In putting together this game plan, consider the following tips in preparing for and conducting interviews: Preparing for the Interview 1. Identify the relevant witnesses. Before you run out and start interviewing witnesses, you need to know who you want to interview. Learn everything you can about the case, and identify everyone who may be a witness. 2. Interview them sooner rather than later. Once you have identified the relevant witnesses, track them down and interview them. Memories fade. Don’t wait weeks or months before interviewing people. By waiting, you’re giving opposing counsel the opportunity to be the first to contact the witnesses, and potentially influence their testimony, either inadvertently or on purpose. 3. But don’t rush into interviews. Just as you shouldn’t wait too long to conduct interviews, you shouldn’t rush into them either. Prepare wisely. Learn as much as you can about the case and determine what role a witness plays in the case. Is she a liability witness or a damages witness? Favorable or unfavorable? Understand the importance of the witness and prepare a detailed questionnaire which you’ll use during the interview. 4. Go to the source. Phone calls are fine for the initial contacts, but you should interview the witness in person, and preferably at that person’s home or place of business. 5. Bring documents to the interview. Determine what the relevant documents are and bring those documents to the interview. In a breach of contract case, bring a copy of the contract. In an auto accident case, bring photos of the accident scene. 6. Decide how you are going to document the interview. Other than taking notes, will you record the interview? Videotape it? You may want to have a court reporter accompany you to take a sworn statement. Whatever you intend to do, clear it with the witness first. How to Conduct the Interview 1. Tell the witness who you are. When interviewing witnesses, tell them who you are and who you represent. When dealing with a witness, a lawyer cannot state or imply that he is disinterested. 2. Is the witness represented by counsel? The first question you ask the witness is, “Are you represented by an attorney in this matter?” If the answer is yes, the interview is over. You cannot interview that witness without the consent of his or her attorney. 3. Does the witness work for the opposing party? Find out if the witness works for the opposing party’s corporation or business. Florida Bar Ethics Advisory Opinion 78-4 prohibits direct communications with a corporation’s officers, directors, managing agents or any employee “directly involved in the incident or matter giving rise to the investigation or litigation.”By contrast, Ethics Advisory Opinion 88-14 allows an attorney to communicate with ex-employees if: (1) the ex-employee is not represented by his former employer’s counsel; and (2) the lawyer does not inquire into matters that are within the corporation’s attorney-client privilege. See also H.B.A. Management, Inc. v. Estate of Schwartz, 693 So. 2d 541 (Fla. 1997). 4. Is this the witness’ first interview? Find out who else has interviewed the witness. Also, find out if he has given a recorded or sworn statement. If so, ask him for a copy. If he doesn’t have one, let him know he’s entitled to one. Once he receives it, ask him to forward you a copy. 5. Put the witness at ease. Being interviewed by a lawyer can be fairly stressful. Try to put the witness at ease. If the witness isn’t nervous, he’ll be more expressive and reveal more information. 6. Ask open-ended questions. To keep the discussion going, and to gather as much information as possible, ask open-ended questions. You want to learn everything this witness knows about your case. 7. Repeat the witness’ own words to avoid misunderstandings. Repeat back to the witness any significant statement he makes, to make sure you understood it properly. You don’t want to advise the client to settle a case based on something a witness said, only to find out later that the witness didn’t say that at all. 8. Find out about other witnesses. Find out what other witnesses may exist, and ask for their names, numbers and addresses. 9. Uncover any bias. Try to uncover any biases that may exist. Is this witness related to anyone in the case? Are they friends at all? Co-workers?Cases are more than documents, facts, and dates. They are ultimately about people. You need to learn what these people, these witnesses, have to say to properly advise your client about the merits of his case. Being prepared will help you learn as much as possible about what witnesses saw, what they heard, and how they will affect your client’s bottom line. Francisco Ramos, Jr. is a senior associate with Clarke Silverglate Campbell Williams & Montgomery in Miami, practicing in the areas of commercial and personal injury litigation. He can be reached at (305) 377-0700 or [email protected]last_img read more