what goes through the minds of lawyers when it comes time to plead?

“Pleading standing, with your ribcage exposed, both feet firmly anchored to the ground, not pitching, avoiding holding…

“Pleading standing up, with your ribcage exposed, both feet firmly planted on the ground, not pitching, avoiding holding a pen so as not to distract attention. » In 35 years of activity, Mand Catherine Cibot-Degommier has not changed much from this recipe that was passed on to her in law school. The President of the Bar was sworn in in 1987. At the time, the written conclusions were shorter, the pleadings essential. She kept a basic outline in mind. “Explain in one sentence what it is about, briefly recall the facts, provide a state of the case, that is to say a shocking argument to capture attention. And then we unroll. The civil lawyer started in another era, when it was considered that criminal matters were a matter for men. To defend we thought we needed a voice, from the safe, a presence. “The most important thing is not sex, it’s the strength of conviction. »

Learn on the job “

Her young colleague Mand Eva Lusteau has been practicing for five years. “Speak loudly, clearly and concisely. Our teachers advised us to film ourselves. We see everything that is wrong. We sweep away language tics, facial expressions. She remembers her first sittings, paralyzed by this heavy decorum. “I was afraid of the black hole, I tended to write everything down. Today I am preparing a draft with only the main ideas. It must be fluid, alive. Fortunately, I never remained silent. The stress goes away when you start. »

The room of the lost steps of the judicial court of La Rochelle where lawyers and clients can

The room of the lost steps of the judicial court of La Rochelle where lawyers and clients can “debrief”.

Jean-Christophe Sounalet/ “SOUTH WEST”

Mand François Drageon, whose swearing-in dates from 1987, is more radical: “There is no learning possible. In court, the lawyer does not remain static. “I walk, I take possession of the space. I always address the judge, even when I pretend not to speak to him. The place we occupy is not only verbal. That is not learned in school. »

Lawyer since 2009, Mand Charles Portier anticipates questions with his client, “demines” pitfalls. To plead well, “I need to put myself in firecracker. I will be more combative. My goal is to achieve the best result. A thankless task when attention flies away. “The impression of facing a wall”, “a broom wagon that is useless”.

Ability to adapt

Everyone agrees that the file must be known at your fingertips. Before the trial, the work consists of preparing a plan, a sheet “so as not to forget the ideas”. On D-Day, room for improvisation and eloquence. “If I am asked to start my pleading again, it will never be the same”, affirms Mand sucker. “I know where I start and where I will end,” assures Madame le Bâtonnier. “At the assizes, I try to put things into perspective, to tell myself that it’s just a correctional hearing”, reassures Mand Lusteau. “I always have the ball in my stomach”, delivers in turn Charles Portier.

Write down the main ideas, know the file at your fingertips and make room for eloquence.

Write down the main ideas, know the file at your fingertips and make room for eloquence.

Illustration Thierry Suire/ “South West”

During the hearing, no question of falling asleep. “Throughout the debates, I ask questions, so that strong ideas emerge. When I plead, it must sound like the truth, confides Mand Porter. You have to be very proud to think that only pleading can change everything. » Knowing the file by heart allows a faculty of adaptation. The client, alone, facing the judges, can put down an entire defense strategy in one sentence. “Sometimes things change at the hearing. Not on the facts but on the atmosphere. I’m constantly thinking about how I’m going to express myself. I speak all alone. The pleading is a movement in the extension of what has just been said. It is very cyclical, ”estimates Mand sucker. Mand Lusteau paid the price. “When the accused confesses when we had planned to plead acquittal, it is catastrophic. »

To convince, they don’t all think that you have to be necessarily convinced. “Empathy is not at the level of client guilt, assures Mand sucker. We are naturally judgmental. One of my first cases involved a woman who had killed her children by throwing them into a well. She was staring at me, she was suicidal, she was crying a lot over her. But 100% of his life was marked with the seal of failure. There are a number of causes. Nine times out of ten, we plead for the guilty. You have to recontextualize. That bastard is never a risky bastard. »

In agreement with the client… or not

If a client strives to deny the obvious, Eva Lusteau is categorical, she does not engage in his defense. “If I don’t agree with myself, I say stop. I can’t convince the court. My argument is always consistent with the exchange I had with the client. »

With 35 years of experience, Mr.and François Drageon does not allow himself to be dictated what he must plead. Evidence in recent days when, on appeal, his client sentenced to 5 years in prison for stabbing continued to deny. “During the trial, I transformed my argument into self-defense. There, I am pleading against my client. It rarely happens, but it was urgent to say that he was talking bullshit. I could see that we were going into the wall. When questioned again, he had exactly the reaction I wanted: he continued to deny the stabbings. The story does not say if it worked. The judgment was reserved. But he feels like he got the job done. “When the customer is in a difficult situation, you have to be there. Because behind the style, however beautiful it may be, always hides the fate of a woman or a man.

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