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When Lawyers Take The Stand: Don’t Be Shy, You Must Testify

August 20, 2012
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Long-time client Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly asked me to illustrate an article about lawyers who find themselves in an unfamiliar position: as defendants. The gist: lawyers tend to lose their self-assurance when the tables are turned.

The editor and I discussed some ideas over the phone, and settled on a lawyer who’s so embarrassed to be on the stand, he’s crouched down in the witness box, trying to hide behind his briefcase. Here’s the final:

humorous illustration for Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly showing courtroom with prosecuting lawyer standing in front of female judge's bench and lawyer and judge are both looking at second lawyer who's under investigation and is hunched down in the witness box, embarrassed about having to testify and trying to hide behind his big lawyer's briefcase

Mass Lawyers is an interesting challenge for me. They have a conservative readership, and they’re looking for humor that’s a bit more restrained. I draw people more realistically for a Mass Lawyers illustration. Here’s a detail image.  detail image from humorous illustration for Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly showing courtroom with prosecuting lawyer standing in front of female judge's bench and lawyer and judge are both looking at second lawyer who's under investigation and is hunched down in the witness box, embarrassed about having to testify and trying to hide behind his big lawyer's briefcase

What do you think? Ever had to testify in court? Would you care to share your Most Embarrassing Moment? Hope you’ll leave a comment.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

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17 Comments leave one →
  1. August 20, 2012 6:58 PM

    I never thought about lawyers squirming if they had to testify. Interesting. That’s a masterful stroke, Mark, having him hide behind a “brief” case.

    Hmmm … embarrassing court story? (Think I’m going to share one of my own? Hah!)

    When I was a newspaper reporter covering a court story, one bit of testimony was so shocking that I could barely keep my pen moving across the paper. The defendant in a fatal drunk driving accident – caused by him traveling at high rates of speed to avoid the cops and then ramming into a part of a restaurant at a corner – claimed he was not the one driving. He said the guy who died had been driving. I was so stunned that my jaw nearly dropped to the floor as he testified.

    The judge didn’t buy it.

    Thank you so much for visiting my blog. I will treasure your priceless and thoughtful comments.

    Like

    • August 21, 2012 8:30 AM

      Brief… lawyer’s brief… briefcase… arrgghh! I can see your punning synapses are still firing away to grand effect… : )

      I have a briefcase for my underwear, but– we won’t get into that… : P

      That was quite a story about the drunk driving case. I didn’t realize you’d been a reporter. That would help explain your exceptional writing skills. That, and your natural brilliance, of course. : )

      Re your blog: As Arnold Schwarzenegger once said to the ice cream vendor: I’ll be beck…

      Thanks as ever, Judy, for your support!!

      Like

      • August 21, 2012 9:55 PM

        Forewarned is forearmed. I’ll try to make sure your next visit is worthwhile. It was great hearing from you.

        I might have to frame your comments. Not even my dear old (late) Mum would describe me as having ‘exceptional writing skills’ and ‘natural brilliance.”

        Like

  2. August 20, 2012 9:02 PM

    It looks great although from what I read since it limits your artistic freedom and creativity I’d too certainly find it more challenging to do!

    It’s also kind of funny to think that they ask that the humor is more restrained. I don’t know, maybe it’s just me but I feel so sorry for the conservative people sometimes.

    Like

    • August 21, 2012 8:54 AM

      Lovely to see you, Sonja, thanks so much for your comment.

      As long as there’s some humorous element in an assignment, I’m usually OK. It’s a commercial artist cliche, I guess, but every assignment locks you into parameters of one kind or another. I used to chafe at restrictions, but that’s an indulgence, I think. I’ve come to view restrictions as part of the artistic challenge: OK, I’ve got less room to maneuver, but I’m gonna come up with something good anyway.

      And since you and I are natural artistic geniuses, we always succeed, right?? : )

      Many thanks for your support!!

      Like

  3. August 21, 2012 1:12 AM

    No Mark, I haven’t ever had to testify in court, nor have I been called upon for jury duty; thank goodness, and fingers crossed..!

    I can certainly imagine a lawyer’s chagrin to be exposed to a replica of himself bearing down upon him in the witness stand; must be a loathsome duty for them to perform; I’m sure.

    One can only assume from this that they are cognizant of their prevailing attitude when addressing defendants taking the stand; else why would their demeanour change with the prospect? I don’t have a lot of sympathy, I must admit.

    However; your caricatures are simply wonderful and tell the story down to the minutest detail as always. Well done to you…. 🙂

    Like

    • August 22, 2012 8:55 AM

      I’ve never had to testify in court either. But if and when I do, I’m going to testify to your sterling character… : )

      Yes, I think we all enjoy seeing someone get a taste of their own medicine. You dish it out, you gotta be able to take it. Fortunately, I treat everyone with exquisite kindness, so I don’t have to worry. Right. : P

      Thanks so much for your gracious comment, Carolyn!

      Like

  4. August 21, 2012 10:11 PM

    I wouldn’t call it my most embarrassing moment but yes, in my law librarian days, I did work in a courthouse where I got accidentally locked out in the stairwell just outside the Chief Justice’s office.

    I was there for at least half an hour in a panic. Fortunately someone, not him, walked through to use the staircase, instead of the elevator, and allowed me back into the hallway…

    Just a piece of tidbit trivia: as courthouse staff, we had to use different washrooms than the judges.

    As another piece of legal world trivia, there are 1-2 whole books where court judgements have been selected for their writing style. There was even a court judgement written… as a poem. Hopefully, the verdict was crystal-clear.

    Like

    • August 23, 2012 2:48 PM

      Hi Jean, loved all your stories. Locked in a stairwell– ouch! Well, we have a kind of shared experience, then. Something very similar happened to me during a career detour that found me working as a teller in a bank:

      I worked late one night, and went to exit through a rear door. I passed thru an inner door into a tiny foyer, and found the outer door was locked. Then I discovered the inner door had locked behind me. Through the glass, I saw the bank was completely dark. The officer in charge had turned out the lights and used a different exit. Talk about panic! I had visions of a very long night– or worse. There was a discreet neon sign above the door that said OPEN. Luckily, the controlling switch was right there. I started flashing the sign on and off, hoping to attract attention. The bank officer passed by in his car, saw the sign, and came back to investigate. Rescued! He was extremely apologetic, and almost as relieved as I was– almost. I’ll never forget it!

      Court judgments written in a unique style– fascinating. I can’t believe one was written as a poem! Was the judge bored, angry, or just plain showing off?? I’m sure there’s a story behind that poem! : )

      Many thanks for your support and great comment, Jean!

      Like

  5. August 22, 2012 10:26 AM

    Mark, I think you hit the nail on the head as far as conservative readership and restrained humor. I’ve only had to be deposed which was interesting enough, but I have been served numerous times. They must have gotten a chuckle out of your lawyer hiding behind his briefcase illustration. I think you captured the experience judiciously… case closed 🙂

    Like

    • August 23, 2012 3:08 PM

      Thanks, Tracey. Agreed: a good illustrator is always mindful of the readership. All part of the job, and satisfying one’s client.

      Despite having read my share of legal thrillers, I had to look up depose. For the benefit of other readers, I’ll note the definition here:

      depose v. 1) to ask questions of a witness or a party to a lawsuit at a deposition (testimony outside of the courtroom before trial). 2) to testify at a deposition.

      Sounds like you’ve had some interesting experiences! Got a feeling you’d make an excellent witness… : )

      I handled the assignment judiciously, eh? That’s a pun, but you won’t hear me crying, Objection!– many thanks!! : )

      Like

      • August 24, 2012 9:48 AM

        You are too clever Mark, I love it. Yes, I personally LOVE being a witness. It’s the analytical side of me. Now off to read your tremendous Ruby blog!!!!

        Like

  6. August 26, 2012 12:22 PM

    Having a little tight box one must work inside of AND be funny! Who ya gonna call? Mark!! I love the smug look on the lawyer’s face that says, “What’s wrong with you?” and the disdain on the judge’s face. So perfect!

    Luckily I have never had to be on jury duty (close once but they settled out of court . . . phew!) and I’ve never had to sit in that little box but if I did? I’m sure I would look and act guilty because I’d be trying so hard not to look and act guilty! Ha!

    Like

    • August 28, 2012 9:31 AM

      Ha! What a delightful comment. I’m going to have you arrested and put on trial for being too nice– and you’re sure to be convicted!! : )

      I had the exact same jury duty experience: got picked for one, but the case was settled out of court. I was much relieved, because I watched a lot of Perry Mason episodes when I was a kid, and I knew for sure that someone would suddenly point at me and cry: “That’s him– that’s the murderer!!” And I’d’ve felt compelled to break down and confess… : (

      Thanks a million, Linda, for your wonderful support! : )

      Like

  7. September 2, 2012 6:58 PM

    I love this your cartoon, very simple but tells a story and very funny!

    Like

    • September 5, 2012 10:44 AM

      Many thanks for that very kind comment, Inge.

      If that were me on the stand, you wouldn’t be able to see me at all– I’d’ve crawled into the woodwork somehow!! : )

      Like

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