Tag Archive - Law and Lawyer Tips

Juries: How They Work, How They’re Chosen, and What Lawyers Handle Them Best

Today’s guest post is by Karen A. Wyle:

Want to write legal thrillers? Or put a courtroom scene in your novel? Movies portray juries listening to evidence and lawyers’ arguments, but there is much to understanding the roles and responsibilities of a juror.

In true lawyer fashion, I’ll begin with a caveat: my experience comes from practicing law in the United States, almost entirely in California and Indiana. While I have my educated guesses about what doctrines exist beyond those borders, you should treat them as guesses rather than gospel.

Understanding the Function of Juries

There’s one very important open secret about how juries function: they can do pretty much whatever they believe to be right and just, even if their verdict conflicts with the applicable law. Rather than some kind of quirk or flaw in the system, this power is a large part of why we have juries at all. Continue Reading…

Push the Boundaries to Create Believable Scenes and Characters in the Legal World

Today’s post wraps up our extensive series taking a hard look at some of the professions fiction writers might choose to include in their stories. We’re covered posts that delve into law and legal systems and procedures, police proceduresmedical practices and forensics, judges, and now writer and ex-lawyer Jim Steinberg shares some great tips on being real about characters in the legal world.

“It is not what a lawyer tells me I may do, but what humanity, reason, and justice tell me I ought to do.” —Edmund Burke

Should you have in mind a story about people embroiled in a legal battle, these plain words of a towering figure in philosophy and political theory are worth remembering.

They hint that Burke, who gave up law school to travel and write and never plied the trade, might advise you to let your story cross the legal, moral, and ethical boundaries that the adversary process is intended to assert and protect.  He might say that to insist on your characters—the parties, lawyers, judges, investigators, and witnesses (both expert and lay)—keeping their conduct within those boundaries will not represent how things actually happen.  Nor will doing so guarantee an interesting story.  Continue Reading…

A Behind-the-Scenes Peek at Sitting on the Bench

Today’s post is part of a series on professionals sharing tips and expertise in order to help novelists convey accuracy in their fiction. If you are writing any scenes that include doctors, lawyers (posts here and here), investigators, or law enforcement officials, be sure to study these posts (and print them out for reference).

The following guest post is from Judge S. V. Brown, a former attorney who has been on the bench in California for three years:

If you are writing legal fiction, chances are you will have a scene in a courtroom. If you choose to include such a scene, don’t forget that the judge does not have to be a boring fringe character who issues rulings without emotion.

A courtroom is an emotionally charged environment, and judges are not immune to it. Give your judge depth and character and think about how your judge would respond in the scenarios you create. I have been a superior court judge a little over three years, and here are a few insights I can share about sitting on the bench.

Judges Are Not Know-It-Alls

When you see a judge, it’s easy to think, “This is the person with all the answers.” While judges have special training and access to resources, there is no special endowment of wisdom you get when you put on that robe.  Continue Reading…

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