Thursday, 3 May 2012

Trials and Tribulations... well, more about Trials.

I was to have my first ever Trial yesterday. My very own trial!

Picture this, a young, enthusiastic new solicitor gets given a 'soft' trial by the top brass of the firm, and effectively told to 'just run with it.' I can't lose!

Ok, it wasn't quite that bad, and I wasn't quite that gung-ho about it, but I was pretty excited. The trial was a simple one, and involved very few issues. If effect, it was about whether a person was standing on the footpath, or on the driveway. The difference between the two witnesses (the complainant and the defendant) was seriously, less than one metre.

I stayed at work until nearly 10.00pm the night before, reading and reviewing statements, and putting together a case concept. I wrote out my draft closing statement, and prepared angles for cross-examination. I had the whole thing ready to go. (2.5 billable hours, including two in conference with a senior partner.)

The trial was listed for 2.15, but my client had about 6 matters in the 10 and 11.30 lists, all alleged breaches of an Intervention Order, all against the same victim. All of them were denied, and all of them looked like having to go to trial, since prosecution weren't going to budge on them. None of these other matters were ready for trial themselves, though.

His Honour, in his infinite wisdom, decided to adjourn my trial until all the matters could be heard together.

My client, needless to say, was ropable. Some of these matters have been hanging over his head since September 2011, and his Bail conditions are draconian. The problem? This isn't the main Court in the area; this was in a small circuit Court that sits every two months. Since all these matters have to go to a Pre-Trial Conference (that puts us in July) they can then be listed for trial at the NEXT circuit, which isn't until September.

Asides from a ropable client and a disappointed junior solicitor, this actually raises an interesting costs problem. Can I ask for costs in this matter, since Police were ready to go, but the COURT was the reason it didn't proceed? IE, should I ask for a fee on brief?

The client is paying privately, but is only just keeping up with his payments. Should I bill the client for a fee on brief, even though the trial didn't go ahead? I don't want to double-bill him, but I am almost certain that I will have to re-prepare for the next trail, given that it will include a whole bunch more material.

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