A few days ago, I spoke at a local middle school for a careers class. Thanks to some links from the North Carolina Bar Association, I was able to download and print out for the students a mini-mock trial for them to do in class. I had 4 witnesses, 3 lawyers for the plaintiff and 3 lawyers for the defendant. The “case” involved an alleged bullying incident. The Plaintiff alleged that the Defendant had always bullied her and on this occasion, pushed her down, causing her injury and a broken Ipod. The Defendant claimed she never pushed her and saw the Plaintiff, who had a history of “clumsy” behavior, run into an open locker.
For the most part, the students were reviewing their statements and formulating their questions and arguments on the fly, but there was at least one line of pretty good questioning that I missed on my review of the facts. It was interesting how they made some of the same mistakes that even experienced attorneys fall into. One thing several did was jump right to the facts, without even asking the witness their name. I’ve never done that, but sometimes you do tend to forget that the jury is hearing all the evidence for the first time. An attorney has to be diligent in making sure the jury is educated on each part of the case. Another thing was the plaintiff was talking to her lawyers. I had to remind her that they were not trying to convince her attorney, or me, or the other attorney, but the rest of the class, the jury. Sometimes even in the middle of trial, I have to remind my client it doesn’t matter what they think is fair, it’s what the jury thinks is fair. Finally, while they were fairly focused when they were asking or answering questions, they would drift off or whisper to each other when it wasn’t their “turn.” I had to remind them, as I remind my clients and keep in mind myself, that even when they are not active, the jury and judge is still watching them. They really paid attention when I told them that a judge could put them in jail for contempt of court for talking out of turn in his courtroom. Several decided then and there to be judges.
The kids had fun and hopefully learned a little bit about what it means to be a trial lawyer.
–Bradley A. Coxe is a practicing attorney in Wilmington, NC with Hodges & Coxe PC who specializes in Personal Injury, Medical Malpractice, Homeowner’s Associations, Contract and Real Estate disputes and all forms of Civil Litigation. Please contact him at (910) 772-1678.