By Juol Nhomngek
When I talk of a lawyer in this context, I take it for granted to mean practising advocate. A good lawyer is one who has properly understood basic principles of law.
The Lawyer who has properly understood principles of law is always ready to make statement which is legally correct. This means that the lawyer must avoid all fallacies and their appearances at the face of his or her legal arguments.
A fallacy means falsehood. Where the legal argument appears to be legally correct but it is not based on any law or law applicable to the facts in dispute, then such an argument cannot be sustained by the presiding judge or judges.
This comes out clearly when a judge or judges reach conclusion that though lawyer x or y has made very good argument in favor of his or her client, we cannot agree with him or her. When the judge or judges say that know that your argument is not supported by strong authority or it is personal theory made up by the Lawyer.
Though I am not claiming to be good lawyer but just like any other lawyer, my little experiences have shown that there is nothing like good lawyer in law.
Rather, the good lawyer in law is someone who has a strong grasp of law of evidence and procedures. Law of evidence is the basis of all other laws. It is the basis of law governing procedures.
Criminal and civil procedures in this case draw much from law of evidence. These two procedural laws are drawn from laws governing crimes of any kind and civil activities of anykind respectively.
It is common for ordinary citizens to question certain arguments or information by saying or asking the one stating the fact or giving information as to what is the source of the fact or information he or she is giving.
When they ask for the source of information or facts, the ordinary citizens without legal background are trying to tell the one feeding them with facts or information to adduce evidence to support his or her argument.
The ordinary citizens in questioning the facts or information to support his or her information, they are trying avoid being fed with information based on hearsay.
The same thing is found in the law of evidence though there are exception when it comes to hearsay. Therefore, a lawyer who has properly understood the law of evidence will be able all the times to safeguard against fallacy in making argument.
The good legal argument must be based on three grounds as found in logic. These are called premises.
The premises are: major premises, which is the law, minor premises which are facts and then when you add the two and the two correctly agree, then one reaches a right conclusion.
Hence, correct major premise + correct minor premise = the right conclusion and if one has made such an argument, the judge or judges are likely to agree with the Lawyer whose arguments follow this pattern of argument.
Thus, for one to reach right conclusion, law must be correct, which means the law must be applicable to the facts before the judge. This imprisons the judgment from trying to manipulate the law through creative decision making in order to disagree with you. Even if the judge disagrees, the probability of succeeding on appeal is high.
If the issue before the judge or judged is complex that needs a lot of intepretation then the lawyer who needs the case to be decided in favour of his or her client must do good research.
One of the most important skill any lawyer must possess is the legal research skill. Having legal research skills gives a Lawyer leverage over his or her learned friends.
The lawyer who is knowledgeable in legal research is able to be up-to-date with major development in legal profession. For instance, in Uganda the recent decision of Supreme Court in the case of Kabandize and 20 others v. KCCA delivered in 2017 where the Supreme Court confirmed the decision of the Constitutional Court that Attorney General could be served like any other citizens, a lawyer who is not good at legal research will not know this new development in the service of summons in Uganda.
Legal research also helps the lawyer to get the law applicable as well as getting many authorities and because of that he or she is able to cleverly distinguish the authorities which impresses many judges.
In short, a good lawyer is not the one who knows the law only but the one who knows where to find the law and apply it properly.