If you think it’s easy, you’re doing it wrong

Feisal Naqvi in The News:

Feisal-naqviI am a litigator. I argue for a living. If you want to put it poetically, I’m an architect of the imagination: I make and destroy arguments for a living.

High-stakes litigation is difficult everywhere in the world because somebody’s life or somebody’s livelihood is often on the line. But what makes it immeasurably more terrifying in Pakistan is that our advocacy is still done orally, not in writing. That means that when you stand up to argue, you often have no idea what point is going to catch the judge’s fancy or what is going to disturb him: you just have to do your best and try to anticipate everything which might be flung at you.

The further consequence of this oral tradition is that a good lawyer needs to know his entire brief, inside and out, before he stands at the rostrum. As I once explained it to somebody, litigation lawyers are like stage actors: we need to know the entire play. We don’t have the option of only learning the lines needed for the next take.

As you get more experienced, it becomes easier for you to anticipate what point is likely to catch the judge’s eye. And it gets easier for you to extract the gist of the case from a two-foot high stack of documents. But at the end of the day, you still need to go through that stack. And you still need to know everything inside it. Or else.

I may or may not be correct in feeling that my job is exceptionally hard. But my point here is simpler: no matter what the job, doing it well is going to be difficult. If you think it’s easy, you’re doing it wrong.

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