Guidebooks for the Trip to Trial

Judge Primeaux of the 12th Mississippi Chancery Court did a post yesterday entitled, “WHERE IS THE BEST PLACE TO HIDE SOMETHING FROM A LAWYER? [HINT: IT’S IN THE RULES].” He notes

Lawyers do not bother to read the rules. One of my pet peeves. Just the other day I had a lawyer in my office who proudly produced proof of certified mail service of process on a state department. No one appeared for the defendant agency. That may be, I pointed out, because MRCP 4(d)(5) requires process “Upon the State of Mississippi or any one of its departments, officers or institutions, by delivering a copy of the summons and complaint to the Attorney General of the State of Mississippi.” Really? Didn’t know that.

and concludes,

I am convinced that the most significant difference between the good lawyers and the mediocre-to-poor ones is that the good lawyers take time to try to do it right, making sure they know the rules, statues or cases behind what they are doing.  Which category will you place yourself in?

I am convinced as the judge of his conclusion and feel it is as applicable to paralegals as lawyers. Unfortunately all too often both  attorneys and paralegals view the Rules of Procedure (Civil, Criminal, Appellate) as obstacles to be overcome on the way to trial. I’ve done entire presentations  on “The Path of a Civil Lawsuit” attempting to change that point of view. The Rules are not obstacles to a trial, but a guidebook for the trip to trial.  No need to wander aimlessly through that trip – the Rules will guide you, telling you:

oWhat you can, must and cannot do
oHow to do it – Format and Procedure
oWhen you can, must or cannot do it
oWhere to do it
So take the judge’s advice:  Keep your rule book on your desk — open — every time you have to issue process, or file a motion to compel, or file a counterclaim, or a 12(b)(6) motion,  glance at the rule, and refresh your recollection.
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