I was on the phone with a clerk recently challenging him on a file he had put together for my case. During the course of our discussion, I asked the clerk "How did you make your decisions about the content of this file?" His answer was, "I looked at the section in The Practice Book that provides the guidelines for what I am supposed to do."
This, guys, is the very center core of everything that goes on in a court room. No matter what you do or say, it all comes down to are you doing what the practice book tells you to do.
When I was preparing to take my case over as a self represented party, one of the first things I did was spend several days sitting in family court and observing what was going on. Now, I basically think all lawyers are no good and I wouldn't trust any one of them. But I do, now, have respect for one Connecticut attorney, Attorney Steve Dembo. Why? Because every time I saw him in court he had a copy of the Connecticut Practice Book right in front of him and whenever there was a dispute, he would just open it up and read from it. That approach always seemed to work like a charm and end the dispute in his favor.
OK, so I guess that doesn't seem like rocket science to you and you figure anyone could do that. But don't be so sure. Remember all the dumb things your lawyers have done since you started your case. Unbelievable! Following rules that are clearly printed out in a book is really hard for these people!
If the law seems mystifying to you, if you think your lawyer is all song and dance and no action, just take out the Practice Book, because the Practice Book tells you exactly what your lawyer is supposed to be doing. And if he isn't doing it, you can open the appropriate page during your next meeting and ask, have you done the following procedure as prescribed by the Practice Book? It is really hard for an attorney to wiggle out of what The Practice Book says to do.
How can you get your hands on a Practice Book you ask and how much does it cost? I'll tell you. All you have to do is google "Connecticut Practice Book 2011" and you will be able to locate a PDF version of the book and download it off the internet for free. The only downside to this is that the book is over 500 pages long so you have to sit in front of your computer for quite a long time until the whole thing prints and then you have to find a way to store it so you can flip through the pages easily and read it.
I have my Practice Book stored in two large three ringed notebooks, so that involved having to print the book out on three hole punched paper to save time. You can figure out your own system.
Once you have your own copy of this book you essentially have in your hands the rules of court for the State of Connecticut which dictate exactly how a lawsuit is conducted; it tells you what documents to file, when you need to file them, and what you have to have in them in order to get the results you need.
If you don't follow these rules, you may end up being unable to proceed effectively with your case in court and thus may lose your case not on the basis of the facts and the evidence, but simply on the basis that you didn't follow the rules in the Practice Book.
Sometimes these rules may seem trivial, particularly when they go into the details of margins and page numbering, but keep in mind the clerks who receive all the documents you take to court will strictly enforce those rules. You don't want to go all the way to court and have a document rejected simply because your pagination was wrong.
What this means is that to succeed as a self represented party or to work with your lawyer so he or she succeeds, you have to be attentive to detail, no matter how small. Whenever something has to be submitted to the Court, open up your Practice Book and review it and ask yourself have I done everything with this document that the Practice Book requires. If you haven't, do it over again.
From what I have seen, cases either succeed or do not succeed based on these kinds of details. And you want to succeed.