Latest & Greatest – Cross Examination: A Primer for the Family Lawyer

By Stephen Gassman  Published by the American Bar Association. Section of Family Law.  KF 8920 .G37 2017

By Stephen Gassman

Published by the American Bar Association. Section of Family Law.

KF 8920 .G37 2017

Have a look in any law library catalog, and you’re bound to find dozens of references to books written by legal practitioners on the subject of cross examination. Cross examination is an art form and a skill that is highly-prized among litigators but one that is difficult to master. It is said that “practice makes perfect”; however, it is still worthwhile to know some techniques, rules, and even the “do this, but don’t do this” sort of guidelines to help lead the way. There is no magical shortcut to conducting a successful cross examination, but good old-fashioned trial and error and Stephen Gassman’s book, Cross Examination: A Primer for the Family Lawyer just might do the trick.

Beginning with what he terms as the “Commandments of Cross Examination,” Gassman launches into a discussion of the basic principles of conducting of what hopefully will become a successful cross examination. Providing simple suggestions such as "be brief" and "use repetition," the author outlines various guidelines to help you avoid some of the common pitfalls that could ruin what otherwise might have been a winning cross examination. There are situations, though, where it is advisable to not conduct a cross examination of a witness, and Gassman addresses some of those for you.

Other principles that the author enlightens his readers about are those of primacy and recency, both of which deal with timing, and the concept of looping, a tool used for emphasis. He also highlights some cross examination techniques like the use of trilogies, hints about body language, handling the witness with an inability to recollect, and overcoming the hearsay objection. Gassman also provides guidance on impeachment, preparing a witness for cross examination, and conducting cross examination of expert witnesses, including those used in child custody cases.

If you are seeking ways to improve your cross examination skills or are looking for help conducting that first cross examination, have a look at Cross Examination: A Primer for the Family Lawyer.

Latest & Greatest – ABA Trial Preparation Resources

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   By Bruce W. Felmly  Published by American Bar Association Section of Litigation and First Chair Press (2015)  KF 8915 .F47 2015

By Bruce W. Felmly

Published by American Bar Association Section of Litigation and First Chair Press (2015)

KF 8915 .F47 2015

In support of its mission of making practical resources available to members of the legal profession, the American Bar Association has published two resources that assist lawyers with trial preparation: Preparing for Trial: 60 Days and Counting and One Hundred Days Before Trial: A Family Lawyer's Guide to Preparation and Strategy.

In his book, Preparing for Trial: 60 Days and Counting, Bruce W. Felmly walks the reader through a trial scenario from the moment the notice setting trial is received to the morning of the trial. Breaking down the 60 days into smaller increments, Felmly explains the tasks that need to or should be performed, such as scheduling, planning trial presentation techniques, conducting mock trials, preparing the pretrial filings, drafting a version of the opening statement, attending the pretrial conference, and preparing the client and witnesses. Following Felmly’s systematic approach will make the task ahead not seem so daunting.

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   By Steven N. Peskind  Published by the American Bar Association Section of Family Law (2015)  KF 505.5 .P47 2015

By Steven N. Peskind

Published by the American Bar Association Section of Family Law (2015)

KF 505.5 .P47 2015

For the family lawyer, help comes in the form of Steven Peskind's One Hundred Days Before Trial: A Family Lawyer's Guide to Preparation and Strategy. Peskind guides the reader through the steps and preparations that must be or should be completed during the 100 days leading up to the trial of a family law case. Organized by segments based upon some suggested time periods, the author proposes certain tasks that lawyers should perform. For instance, witnesses, both lay and expert, should ideally be considered 60 days before trial, and 30 days prior to trial would probably be a good time to prepare opening and closing statements and draft any final pretrial motions. At the end of each chapter, there is a checklist to keep track of what has been done and what has yet to be done. This book is a great resource not only for the family lawyer but also for any lawyer who needs a bit of help with staying on track and keeping organized.

Look for both of these titles at the Harris County Law Library!