There is a lot of misunderstanding, even among lawyers who should know better, on what your function as a defence attorney and state prosecutor is. It is not to get your client off no matter what - it is to present his case to the court in a manner which is such that justice can prevail. The opposite is true of the prosecutors who present the State’s or Victim’s case and note I spell Victim with a capital V, they are often overlooked in courts – it is not to get the accused found guilty at any cost. That is not your first motive although for some it is and it leads to trouble.
Like it or not, this is how our legal system works and I am tempted to say be grateful you have a reasonably working system, as bad as it is it is way better than the rest of Africa. Let me explain, in a place like Nigeria you will never greet the judge (many times a friend of many years) before the trial as he will fear that he is then seen as being bought. In South Africa we don’t have that, it is extremely rare for such allegations to be alleged and in our legal history it happened less than twice no matter what you read in the popular press. And we do greet the judge in chambers - in fact, in my days when I still bothered with litigation it was expected to do so. And no one ever said we tried to swing him to our side. It was simply good manners between professionals.
So why is it that attorneys (and I include the advocates) are sometimes hated for their actions in court? So much so that altercations between the Victim’s family and the attorneys take place or the accused and the attorney on record. You know what I mean, words are said, punches thrown and a fair bit of shovelling between the parties. All this is in law called “assault” and it will not be taken kindly to. Years ago I watched in court as an advocate dived for cover when he got attacked by the Victim’s family – luckily he was a big enough man to shrug it off. If he had chosen to lay criminal charges, the family would have gone to jail. It was totally uncalled for, they, the family, lied so much under oath that the judge dismissed their testimony with contempt.
Now lawyers are no angels and they do tend to annoy even the most easy-going of people including me who often joke about them and their mannerisms. They do have a nasty reputation for callousness and illegal activities. I wrote in my book “Tricks of Trade – Memories of a Rogue Lawyer” that you only have to listen to the lawyer jokes, sometimes told in a very harsh manner to understand how little respect the profession has in the eyes of the public. They are looked down upon and are two a penny (true), ambulance chasers (true), barefaced liars (not true) and what have you. And yet, take my word that they are inherently honest and good people doing a terrible job.
It is not a nice profession and you would never allow your child into it if you know the truth – long hours, nasty people, underpaid and abused staff and many other negatives. You are almost always, if in litigation, in a punch up. Yes, the size of your manhood plays a role even if the lawyer is female (even worse, she wants to prove she is tough, God knows why, I know women are tougher than men). Lawyers know and dislike each other as in any other job. Through the years you know who the shysters are and who is reasonable. And at times, yes, money plays a large role - the longer the case goes on the more money you make. You can read in the aforementioned book how lawyers add unnecessary money on every case and you will probably want to shoot the next one you see (don’t).
This reminds me, they do get shot and kidnapped and beaten up. Yes, we read of that…of lawyers shot dead inside their offices or found next to the road, dead and beaten to a pulp. This is wrong. This is as much as to threaten the surgeon with death if his patient dies under the scalpel. This is not the way our system works, don’t play the man who has a job to do even if you don’t agree with what he says. Cross examination in a court of law is by its very definition rigorous and things are said, even sarcastically (never allowed by a good judge) to get a clear understanding of what took place. All clients lie to you, that is lesson one. It is rare to find a client admitting anything which is negative to him unless he has to and you learn, as I explained before, a look of utter disbelief hoping he would get that you are not convinced and if you are not convinced then the judge will not be either. And then you find the honourable businessmen, they don’t lie, they confuse. My word, they set up Trusts and Companies, ring fencing themselves so much that you cannot get them no matter what you do. They play with money from one account to another and so it is. You should do the same and if you don’t know how, read my free eBook “Your Worst Enemy” which will tell you how to become untouchable in law. It is the only way.
All these things are allowed. I said many times (it is boring, I am sorry) the law is neutral. You must invoke it to get satisfaction. So are miracles, you need to ask God and believe (the hard part) for them. There is no need to physically attack the lawyer no matter what he does in court. Rather ignore him and make him a social outcast – you know the old joke about the dispute between hell and heaven? Heaven almost lost since not a single lawyer could be found in heaven. I don’t want to read of lawyers assassinated for whatever reason or lawyers shoved around when leaving court – they are men and women with the same feelings you have and will shove back or sue you. Don’t be stupid now, don’t feed the animals and have patience with their inherent flaws known to all man. It is our legal system and a fair one.
Koos Kotze is a former member of the South African Police Force. He served between 1985 and 1991 primarily as a sergeant in the Pretoria Flying Squad. During his police years, he was awarded the South African Police Medal for Combating Terrorism twice besides lesser awards. After leaving the Police Force he obtained the law degrees B Iuris & LLB at the University of the Free State (Bloemfontein, South Africa) and was a commercial law attorney for eight years. These days he is the owner of JKLS Africa and Associates, a specialist legal consultancy which specializes in reducing legal risk in sub Saharan Africa. He wrote several books on business, law, counter-terrorism and security issues. At times he is asked to participate on the Voice of America regarding legal forensic matters.