This guest post comes from Imani Hudson-Hill, a third-year student in the Sheller Center’s Social Justice Lawyering Clinic. Of course, guest posts reflect the personal views of the authors; we welcome a diversity of viewpoints.
My law student partner and I recently represented a client at an arbitration hearing through the Sheller Center for Social Justice’s Advanced Social Justice Lawyering Clinic. Our client was a low-wage worker who had not been paid minimum wage and overtime by her former employer, for whom she worked for seven years. Her case had been ongoing for several years and she wanted a chance for her story to be heard — regardless of the hearing’s outcome.
I was tasked with cross-examining the opposing party with an interpreter. To prepare for my cross-examination, I looked through depositions and documents, then crafted short and leading questions that I hoped would result in admissions that supported our case theory.
The thing I did not anticipate was under what circumstances I would be conducting my cross-examination. Once it was time for my cross-examination, the arbitration had been in progress for approximately four hours and the panel was noticeably impatient. I wound up cutting a significant portion of my cross-examination on the spot because the witness was unable to read the documents that I’d planned to introduce, the interpreter’s clock was running out, and the room was filled with fatigued, hungry parties and panelists. Despite having to redesign my cross-examination on the fly, we received most of the admissions that we had anticipated.
Sifting through a three-year-old case file to prepare for the hearing then deviating from my prepared examination was a daunting and intimidating process. However, attending my first arbitration hearing was an invaluable experience that taught me the importance of being a prepared and flexible advocate. In the end, the panel ruled in favor of our client and ordered the opposing party to pay her the money she rightfully deserved.