One of my early mentors — I’ll call him James — was a well-known trial lawyer in Peoria. I met James in January 1983, the same month that I opened my law practice. He started out by giving me research and writing projects. Before long, I was covering his court hearings and helping him prepare cases for trial.
Several of James’ opponents had a nickname for him — “the gentle interrogator.” The name described him perfectly. Whenever James cross-examined a witness, he was a perfect gentleman. Because he came across as a kind, gentlemanly lawyer, most witnesses would let their guard down and reveal information that no other lawyer would be able to get from them.
I rarely saw James get angry. He was always cool, calm, and in control.
I envied James because he had qualities that I lacked. More often than not, when I questioned a witness, I would get irritated. If a witness was evasive or failed to cooperate, instead of gently leading the witness in the direction that I wanted the witness to go, I would become hostile and aggressive. My behavior would cause the witness to become more evasive and defensive.
I thought about James last week when I sat through a 3-hour deposition of one of my clients.
A deposition is a court-related procedure in which a witness or party to a case is questioned by the lawyers who are involved in the case. Depositions are ordinarily scheduled to take place in a lawyer’s office with a court reporter present. After the deposition, the court reporter prepares a transcript of the testimony of the witness and sends it to each of the lawyers.
At the beginning of a deposition, the person who is to be questioned is placed under oath to tell the truth. The lawyers for each party in the case are then allowed to take turns asking the witness questions. The questions must be relevant to the case, or designed to lead to relevant information.
The deposition that I participated in last week took place in my office. In addition to me and my client being present, there was a court reporter and two other lawyers. The other lawyers represented two people whom I had filed a lawsuit against on behalf of my client.
One of the lawyers — I’ll call him Matt — reminded me of my early mentor, James. Matt was cool, calm, and in control. He was from out of town, and I had never met him prior to the deposition.
Matt looked like the type of lawyer you would see on television. In addition to being tall, charming, and good-looking, he was immaculately dressed in what appeared to be a custom-made suit.
Matt questioned my client for more than 90 minutes. He was courteous, patient, and kind. On several occasions, he made comments, such as, “Thank you for sharing that with me” and “I appreciate your honesty.”
During the time that Matt was questioning my client, I marveled at his ability to put her at ease and make her feel comfortable in answering his questions.
When Matt was finished questioning my client, we took a break. After a short conversation with my client, I went to the men’s room, where I ran into Matt. While we were washing our hands, I said, “I rarely encounter a lawyer who is as courteous as you are. You were very kind and complimentary during your questioning of my client. Are you that way at your office and in your home, or is it just an act?”
Matt looked at me and hesitated. I think he was surprised by my question. I asked again, “Are you always that kind and courteous to other people?” He replied, “I try to be, but I’m having a heck of a time teaching my children to be courteous.”
By then, we were walking through the hallway back to my office. His response to my question prompted me to ask about his children. Then I returned to my original question: “So are you really as courteous with everyone as you were with my client?” I continued by saying, “I can just imagine you telling your wife after every meal, ‘Thank you sweetheart for working so hard and preparing such a delicious meal for me.’”
Matt stopped walking. His face turned beet red. He looked at me and said, “I must not have done a very good job of doing that because I’m divorced.” I couldn’t help but laugh at his answer. He also laughed. That was the end of our conversation about his courteous behavior.
After hearing Matt’s comment about being divorced, I thought about my early mentor, the gentle interrogator. Despite the fact that he was always a perfect gentleman, he was married and divorced three times.
Matt and I returned to my office. It was the other lawyer’s turn to question my client. After the deposition was finished, Matt walked the court reporter out to her car. On the way out, he flirted with her and gave her several compliments. Such a nice guy. I wondered if he had been married more than once.
Because of my long-term relationship with my mentor, James, I can tell you that he was (and still is) a genuinely kind and courteous man. It appeared to me that Matt is also a genuinely kind and courteous man. But being kind and courteous isn’t enough to guarantee a successful marriage.
For devout Catholics, there are several virtues and qualities that a husband and wife must possess and practice if they want their marriage to survive and flourish. Those virtues and qualities include humility, patience, kindness, faithfulness, love, fidelity, purity, honesty, trust, generosity, selflessness, and the ability and willingness to listen, sacrifice, communicate, compromise, and forgive.
It’s impossible to master all these virtues and qualities if you fail to adhere to the requirements of the Catholic Church. This includes the mandate that you refrain from using contraceptives. If you are willing to pray on a daily basis and remain loyal to the teachings of the Catholic Church, you will be given the grace to master these virtues and qualities.
There’s a quote from Barnett Brickner that you may want to keep in mind: “Success in marriage does not come merely through finding the right mate, but through being the right mate.”