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California Young Lawyers Association

Tips and Tools — Tips from the Bench

In this edition, Justice Douglas P. Miller of the 4th District Court of Appeal, Division 2, provides tips to new lawyers:

What is one piece of advice that you give to young lawyers?
The easy answer, of course, is to be prepared.  However, there is really much more to it.  Being fully prepared is paramount, but I always tell young lawyers that in addition to doing your homework, “being prepared,” also includes becoming experienced.  With “experience,” you gain knowledge, wisdom, insight and confidence.  Take every opportunity you can to be “in” a courtroom — appearing before a judge, arguing motions, observing other lawyers’ appearances — develop a comfort level in the courtroom setting.

What is a common mistake you see made by young lawyers?
The most common mistake I have observed, whether a young or “seasoned” lawyer, is that preparation for a deposition or a court hearing becomes a script.  So my advice is:  There is nothing wrong with having well-prepared notes or outlines to rely upon, but do not allow them to be a substitute for listening and responding to what a judge asks you, or a witness may say, that does not fit within your script.

Is there any piece of wisdom you have learned that you wish you had known as a young lawyer?
Never forget that you represent a client.  It is not about you.

Do you have any writing tips for young lawyers?
Be brief.  Make your point and support it with appropriate authorities.  Choose your issues carefully.  Be Brief!

What is one piece of advice you would give to a young lawyer about being a better oral advocate? 
I encourage appellate advocates to have a conservation with the justices.  We generally do not want to be read to or lectured.  We want to have a discussion that leads to a better understanding of your position and insight on the issues.  Lastly, to be in the moment.  Roll with the questions and answer the justice’s inquiry.  Then, be aware of where you left off and pick up where you left off in your argument/conversation.

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