Under the Law

Copyright David Johansen © 2009

Edited by Peter Mork for The Guild Companion

"Even these three who had faced down fiends and giants had a healthy fear of lawyers."

Dakhal slowly, silently slid the block out of the wall while Aznarrad listened at the cell door. Dztorna held the bunk, ready to drop it back in front of their work should Aznarrad raise the alarm. With Dakhal's training in the esoteric arts of Wiznarest he would be able to work his supple body through the small opening into the spaces between the cell walls. Perhaps, as soon as tonight they would go free. Aznarrad gave a low hiss and Dztorna silently lowered the bunk back into the exact position where it normally stood. As he slipped out from under the lowering bunk, Dakhal dropped the stripped bolts back into the brackets, making the cell appear as secure as it had been the day the watch had captured them with an enchanted sleep bound in a bottle of blue mist.

The door's bolt creaked and the desperate men slipped into position with practiced ease. Their meals came through a narrow slot in the door. Knowing their reputation the magistrate had commanded that the door should not be opened under any circumstances until their sentence was fulfilled. Even so hope sprung eternal and the three had practiced their stratagem for the happy opportunity of an open door. They sat, with Dakhal and Aznarrad's broad backs to the door and Dztorna facing it.

In the very instant the door opened even a crack, they would boost the slender monk into a flying leap to the top of the door where he could jam a narrow shim, splintered from the back of the bunk into the gap. Then the warrior and ranger could get their fingers in the cracks and pull the door wide and Dztorna could drop down on any guards so foolish as to rush into the cell.

There was a loud creak as the door swung wide in a single bold sweep. Dztorna lept into Dakhal and Aznarrad's hands and was flipped over the door. A long dark shadow fell into the cell as a tall, slender man walked in, taking the scene in with a glance of scorn.

"Now then," he said in a clipped, calm tone, "I have prevailed upon the magistrate to permit me this audience to offer my services. If you wish to decline them and add to your sentence, by all means, set upon me, otherwise, I believe there are sufficient irregularities in the manner of your arrest that we can have you out of here in a day or two." A nod passed between the three adventurers. Even these three who had faced down fiends and giants had a healthy fear of lawyers.

Under The Law is the first in a series of articles dealing with non-combat activities in Rolemaster. Courtroom dramas are popular in movies and television and can provide tension and spectacle to match more action oriented genres. The following guidelines provide a structured environment for resolving trials much as the combat rules do for fighting. Above all, when running a courtroom game the Game Master must be prepared. It's all well and good for a trio of orcs to leap into a room from a secret door but having a surprise witness or bringing in new evidence to patch holes in the case will have the players crying for blood.

The Game Master needs to keep a clear eye on the interest and involvement of the players. If they are just being represented in court, the entire proceedings should likely be reduced to a few rolls and perhaps the players should get to give their testimony and be cross examined. On the other hand if the players are playing lawyers and have a deep interest in pursuing the case, all the various stages can be gamed.

History and Philosophy

The earliest known legal framework document dates to ancient Babylon. The Hebrew Torah or Old Testament contains the laws of that people in the books of Deuteronomy, Numbers, and Leviticus with the Talmud being a record of precedent and commentary. The ancient Greeks were very involved in formulating laws on the basis of philosophy, which are still, thousands of years later, a fundamental basis of our modern legal systems. Other systems evolved in every continent and country, but due to the influence of the British Empire over the last five hundred years, English Common Law is the common foundation for the laws of many countries.

Under English Common Law all crimes are committed against the king or the king's peace. This means that the victim has no direct recourse for restitution or vengeance against their oppressor and must instead appeal to the crown for justice. This removes the justification for taking personal revenge from the legal system. Concepts relating to the fairness of trials, the right of the accused to confront their accuser, placement of the burden of proof on the prosecution, and the over all structure of the legal system of countries from Australia to the United States are all drawn from concepts found in English Common Law.

The System

It goes without saying that most fantasy settings won't have a system based on English Common Law. The key things to consider when setting up the legal system for your game are who makes the decision, what evidence is permissible, and what sentences are common. At the very least the Game Master must know who the court answers to in case the players decide to go over its head, how strenuously the system is devoted to the ideals of fairness and proportionate punishment, and what stages a trial is likely to pass through.

Arbitration

In a strictly medieval game, any noble can act as judge, jury, and executioner for those of lower standing. Some set up judges and courts to get out of dealing with such things but this is hardly the rule. Within independent towns, juries and tribunals may be used to sort out issues. Modern systems tend to have judges who are elected or appointed by elected bodies and a great many checks and balances on their powers. In game terms, the main issue is whether the arbitrator is biased or fair and what particular arguments are especially likely to hold their interest. The judge is the most important NPC in a courtroom game.

Magistrate Haenalmaz is an aged man appointed by the local lord's father to handle matters of common law in his domain. He was a terror in his day and fond of torture and executions as efficient means of maintaining his lord's peace. Now, in his dotage he is wracked with guilt and fear for his immortal soul. At this point in his career, he is biased in favor of widows and orphans, and widely willing to give the benefit of the doubt to those with sob stories. He has no patience at all for lawyers and is biased against those who bring them into his chambers. Being infirm, the magistrate is accompanied by an imposing nurse with arms like a blacksmith's who tenderly sees him to his duties in a wheelbarrow with a high backed chair tied atop it. She is significantly more effective than either of his overweight and lazy bailiffs.

Stages

The steps and procedures in a trial are much like the rounds and phases of combat, with each side taking a turn trying to build or disassemble the case. In a modern system there is likely a pre-trial hearing to determine if there is enough evidence to go forward on, opening statements, presentation and cross examination of witnesses, and closing statements after which there are appeal hearings and potentially an entirely new trial. In a fantasy realm, of course things will generally be simpler as the two sides present their cases in turn and the arbitrator rules on the outcome. Punishments are also harsh and the dead make no appeals. Fantasy jurisprudence being what it is, the arbitrator will often be the prosecution as well. Naturally, this carries an implied bias against the accused.

The Trial

In game terms the stages of a trial are treated as a series of Static Maneuvers with the bonus to subsequent related actions being accumulated as a total modifier for the entire trial that will be applied to the judgment roll. The defendant's total bonuses carried forward are subtracted from the roll and the prosecution's are added. The players should be given a chance to role-play their arguments and appropriate bonuses applied.

Judgment Roll

-30 down Case Dismissed and Prosecution Penalized
-29 - 10 Case Dismissed and Prosecution Chastised
11 - 40 Defendant Declared Innocent
41 - 60 Defendant Declared Innocent On A Technicality
61 - 90 Defendant Declared Guilty, Receives Light Sentence
91 - 130 Defendant Declared Guilty, Receives Normal Sentence
131 - 180 Defendant Declared Guilty, Receives Heavy Sentence
181 up Defendant Declared Guilty, Receives Harsh Sentence

Magic and Superstition

In a society where magic is a functional and widely accepted tool, there will be laws governing its use and role in the courts. Most judges will have seers and wizards at their beck and call to detect and prevent the misuse of magic in the proceedings. Magical evidence may be weighed as heavily as modern forensic science. Information spells in all their guises come into their own in court.

If magic is not obviously functional, many magical practices fall into the realm of superstition and will be eschewed by any credible court. One very common superstition is that the gods will not permit injustice. Various trials by ordeal have been invented over the years and in practice it is very unlikely any produced a single just result.

Trial By Combat

Particularly appropriate to medieval fantasy games is the idea that the gods will not allow the wrong party to triumph in battle. This is great spectacle and very popular with the people who aren't currently being subjected to it. Judicial champions may be hired by the old and sickly to take their place on the field, earning wages appropriate to a high priced lawyer. If the gods are actually taking a hand in the proceedings the side that is in the right should be awarded significant bonuses or perhaps fate points (see the Channeling Companion). At the very least, they should be granted a total bonus of twenty five points in excess of their opponent.

Trial by Torment

Covering trial by iron, fire, water, and torture. The idea is that the gods will not allow the innocent to suffer unjustly. As such should they be able to remove red hot irons from fires, be immersed in boiling water, or tortured on the rack without pain. Obviously such methods are essentially assumption of guilt and only found in highly irrational and unjust societies where personal rights are discarded entirely. But, again in a setting with active gods such methods might actually work. Particularly vindictive gods may even transfer the results of the ordeal to the parties that are actually at fault and to false accusers. This would likely lead to a particularly just and open legal system.

A Modern Legal System

This system is appropriate to most countries that were at one time part of the British Empire. It is not one hundred percent accurate to anything except perhaps television and movies which are, in any case, the main points of reference for most role-playing game combat systems. As a starting point this system is driven by philosophy and history and has a strong determination to provide fair and reasonable arbitration. However, errors are not unknown and there are still judges who hold biases against the lower classes and minority groups to be found. As are those who place their own beliefs above the law as it is written by the legislative body.

Higher Powers

The elected legislative assembly is the highest authority in the country. However it is not empowered to try individual cases. Instead there is a series of higher courts beginning at the local level with another matching each level of government.

Adjudication

The court is presided over by a judge who is appointed by the state or elected. The judge is a professional lawyer with years of experience in the system. Under such a system the Judge will be at least fifteenth level and have two ranks per level of the appropriate Law, Public Speaking, Research, and Philosophy skills. Their combat skills will generally be less impressive.

The accused has the option of trial by judge or a jury of their peers. The jury is selected from the general public by random lottery and then interviewed to determine the absence of bias. Jurors are sequestered for the length of the trial to prevent the introduction of bias through media coverage, threats, or bribery. The burden of proof lies entirely upon the prosecution. There is no expectation that the accused will be required to prove their innocence.

The penalties for giving or taking bribes, presenting false evidence, and rendering biased judgments are severe though instances of all of these still occur occasionally.

The Insanity Defense

One often discussed element of a modern legal system is criminal responsibility. If the accused was not aware of their actions or mentally incompetent their sentence may be reduced and mitigated. This opens up a laundry list of questions ranging from the culpability of inebriated individuals to whether psychopaths are responsible for their actions. In game terms it is enough to assume that a plea of "Not Guilty By Reason of Insanity" is a guilty plea that will place the perpetrator in a mental institute for an indefinite period of time instead of a fixed prison term.

Stages

A modern court has a long and complex protocol, much of which occurs between the lawyers and the bureaucrats outside of the actual trial. Paperwork is the single greatest task of the legal profession with meticulous record keeping being seen as an essential element of the system.

Pretrial Hearing

At the outset of proceedings a short hearing is held to determine whether there are sufficient grounds to proceed with the expense of a full trial. Both Lawyers make a Law skill static maneuver. If the prosecution gets a higher roll the case proceeds.

Prosecution Modifiers
Weak Case −20
Strong Case +20
Defense Modifiers
Notorious Defendant −20
Respectable Defendant +20

Juror Selection

Both lawyers get to interview the jurors to determine their suitability and lack of bias. Jurors are drawn from the citizenry by lottery and compensated for their time by the state. This stage isn't particularly interesting to play out unless the players will be forming the jury. A sheer folly Psychology maneuver will allow a biased juror to be slipped past the other side.

Opening Arguments

The prosecution presents their case and the defense offers a rebuttal. This is represented with Public Speaking static maneuvers and the subsequent related action bonus carrying forward to future rolls in the trial.

Prosecution Presents Case

The prosecution presents their evidence and witnesses after which the defense gets to cross-examine. A number of skills including Duping, Interrogation, and Diplomacy can be tried to find holes in the testimony of witnesses in order to discredit them.

Defense Presents Case

Next the defense presents their own witnesses and evidence and the prosecution cross-examines.

Closing Statements

Once the cases are presented each lawyer makes a summation of their case. Once again Public Speaking maneuvers are used to attempt to influence the judge and jury, who now retire to determine the verdict.

Presentation of Verdict

The jury advises the judge of their decision and suggests a penalty. The judge then pronounces a final verdict and penalty.

Penalties

Given the slow and bureaucratic nature of modern governments and the sheer cost of keeping prisoners in humane facilities there is a strong and growing focus on fines, house arrest, short sentences and early release. Penalties will be reduced as a matter of course if the defendant pleads guilty from the outset simply for the sake of reducing the load on the system. Restitution for the victims is all but unheard of and many leave feeling more oppressed by the system than the accused.

Petty Crimes: 1d10 months imprisonment

Serious Crimes: 2d10 months imprisonment

Capital Crimes: 1d10+ years imprisonment

Light Sentences: 1/2

Heavy Sentences: 2

Harsh Sentences: maximum security or death penalty

Skills

Beyond the obvious usefulness of Law skill, a wide range of skills may prove useful in the course of a trial. The applicability of these depends a great deal on the specific situation but in particular, Public Speaking and Research are essential elements of the legal vocation.

Administration

Just knowing who to you need to talk to if you want the problem to go away can be half the battle. Administration skill is useful for navigating bureaucratic government legal systems. This is particularly important in foreign countries and cultures where the person to whom you need to speak isn't necessarily called what they are at home. Administration skill might not win the case, but getting the paperwork correctly filled out and filed on time can be the lubricant an over burdened judicial system needs to swing into action.

-26 down Spectacular Failure −50 Okay, you didn't even send the forms and spilled coffee in an embarrassing spot on your pants.
-25 - 04 Absolute Failure −10 Sadly, form 3c1497 is a women's lingerie order form and not a request for evidence.
05 - 75 Failure +0 Your paperwork gets lost in a tangle of bureaucracy.
UM 66 Unusual Event Well, that was unexpected. Apparently your forms and inquiries have gotten you on a list of dangerous radicals. The national security agency will be watching you very closely now.
76 - 90 Partial Success +5 Well, it took too long and you're not quite sure you sent everything to everyone that you should have but for better or worse it's done.
91 - 110 Near Success +10 After much effort you actually get some of the information you were looking for.
UM 100 Unusual Success +25 That was easy; it's just a matter of flirting with the right secretary.
111 - 175 Success +20 The forms are in, the replies are back, and you're ready to go.
176 up Absolute Success +30 And people think the bureaucracy is impenetrable! You just have to send the right forms to the right people in the right order and everything comes back to you in triplicate.

Routine +30 One Man Show
Easy +20 Small Business
Light +10 Independent Institutions
Medium 0 Government Departments
Hard −10 Multiple Government Departments
Very Hard −20 Multiple Governments
Extremely Hard −30 Secret Conspiracies
Sheer Folly −50 Multiple Secret Conspiracies
Absurd −70 Alien Governments

Bribery

The truth can be as subjective as the contents of your wallet. Depending on how corrupt a society is, bribery can be unheard of or a mater of course. Witnesses and judges are the primary targets but the other side's lawyer can also be a good person to have in your pocket. Successful bribery attempts depend on a number of factors, the amount of money needs to be significant to match the risks and income of the target. Anything less than a quarter of a year's income is probably too little. Because being caught in each other's friendly company is not a desirable outcome, bribery is often best managed through a go-between or broker. Money spent on bribes isn't a loss, it's an investment, if a person is successfully bribed they can often be blackmailed with the information at a later date.

-26 down Spectacular Failure −50 Well, that's great, you've managed to offend them in front of witnesses. Good luck when this goes to trial.
-25 - 04 Absolute Failure −10 They're offended and biased against you now but they can't prove anything.
05 - 75 Failure +0 They decline and upbraid you for being corrupt.
UM 66 Unusual Event Can you say "sting operation?" I knew you could. You are so busted.
76 - 90 Partial Success +5 Well, there you go, they say no but hint that the offer was low.
91 - 110 Near Success +10 They took your money with a smile. Now you know for sure you can't trust them.
UM 100 Unusual Success +25 They refuse the money and admit to a strong bias in favor of your cause. Does this mean you owe them an unspecified future favor?
111 - 175 Success +20 It's good to meet an honest crook. They'll stay bought, at least until someone else raises the ante.
176 up Absolute Success +30 Well, once you cleared up the misunderstanding about the nature of the services you were trying to purchase they were glad to take your money. They'll even call you if someone makes a better offer.

Routine +30 Desperate, Well Known Crook
Easy +20 Bribe In Excess of Annual Income
Light +10 Shady Character
Medium 0 Government Departments
Hard −10 Accepting Endangers Employment
Very Hard −20 Bribe in Excess of Weekly Income
Extremely Hard −30 Highly Regarded Religious Political Figure
Sheer Folly −50 Bribe Less Than Weekly Income
Absurd −70 Accepting Endangers Person or Family

Diplomacy

Getting along with the judge and the court are vital to being able to influence their opinions. It is also the skill for going over the courts' powers to a higher authority. In a courtroom setting, knowing how and when to speak and what to wear can be as important as the evidence itself. As my employer's father told him "Never get a tattoo where the judge will be able to see it."

-26 down Spectacular Failure −50 You should write a book on how to make enemies. If they're inclined to hiring thugs and assassins then you'd better leave town now.
-25 - 04 Absolute Failure −10 Well, your foot is in your mouth now; they don't like you and never will. Indeed they are determined to work against you at all costs.
05 - 75 Failure +0 Some people are simply disagreeable. They don't like how you look or smell and certainly won't be cooperating any time soon.
UM 66 Unusual Event It all comes down to genealogy, you didn't know your great grandfather murdered theirs but apparently he did. In fact they seem to be thinking about settling the score.
76 - 90 Partial Success +5 After a great deal of kissing up they seem to be less aggravated.
91 - 110 Near Success +10 They begrudgingly cooperate but I wouldn't turn my back if I were you.
UM 100 Unusual Success +25 You've really impressed them with your manner and kind words. Now if they'd just stop following you around.
111 - 175 Success +20 When they crack a grin you know you're getting your way.
176 up Absolute Success +30 And that is how it's done. They are eating out of your hands, hopefully not literally but, hey, whatever it takes right?

Routine +30 Relaxed Situation
Easy +20 Seeking Trivial Concessions
Light +10 Strong Common Interests
Medium 0
Hard −10 Seeking Minor Concessions
Very Hard −20 Conflicting Interests
Extremely Hard −30 Hostile Situation
Sheer Folly −50 Seeking Major Concessions
Absurd −70 Violent Situation

Duping

When you are guilty, know you are guilty, and have no intention submitting to justice there's only one thing left to do: lie through your teeth. Duping is the appropriate skill for witnesses who want their testimony to be considered seriously when it doesn't match the facts, for lawyers who know their clients are guilty but are pleading not guilty, and indeed judges who have been bribed and wish to justify an unjust decision.

-26 down Spectacular Failure −50 Well, they didn't buy your first lie and the second one only made it worse. The problem is you've gotten to the point where you're not even sure what the truth was in the first place.
-25 - 04 Absolute Failure −10 You bend the truth and they call you on it. Looks like you won't be getting anywhere with this crowd.
05 - 75 Failure +0 Whatever you're selling, they're not buying it.
UM 66 Unusual Event They start building on your lie as you're telling it. Adding more and more details that you have to juggle. If there are on lookers they soon start to have a good laugh at your expense.
76 - 90 Partial Success +5 While you haven't convinced anyone of anything you have managed to introduce doubt where there was none before.
91 - 110 Near Success +10 Not bad, not bad, if you were telling the truth to begin with they'd be totally convinced by now.
UM 100 Unusual Success +25 Your lies have the air of profound truth. There is silence as people nod in solemn agreement with your pronouncements.
111 - 175 Success +20 The poor fools believe your every word.
176 up Absolute Success +30 Your artful deceits would shame the devil himself.

Routine +30 Small White Lie
Easy +20 Position of Trust
Light +10 Bending The Truth
Medium 0
Hard −10 Bald Faced Untruth
Very Hard −20 Skeptical Audience
Extremely Hard −30 Indigestible Whopper
Sheer Folly −50 Hardened Audience
Absurd −70 Blatant Fantasy

Interrogation

Hostile interviews are emotionally taxing and place a great deal of pressure on the interviewer as well as the subject. This skill is mainly used to badger a hostile witness using their discomfort and emotional response to discredit their testimony. Such methods are often socially unacceptable and if overused they can harm a lawyer's reputation and relationship with the court.

-26 down Spectacular Failure −50 This bodes ill. There's not a dry eye in the court room but they're all looking at you like you're some kind of monster.
-25 - 04 Absolute Failure −10 They break down and admit to everything. Unfortunately what they admit to only strengthens their testimony and increases their credibility.
05 - 75 Failure +0 That didn't go well, they stick to their guns and throw your abuse right back at you.
UM 66 Unusual Event They get all confused and end up confessing to half a dozen petty crimes completely unrelated to the trial. This has a neutral impact on their credibility.
76 - 90 Partial Success +5 Your victim breaks down and confesses to their embarrassing habits and poor personal hygiene,
91 - 110 Near Success +10 You manage to wear them down to the point where inconsistencies start turning up in their claims but they never outright contradict themselves.
UM 100 Unusual Success +25 This is the stuff of stage and screen. You're yelling, they're yelling, the judge is yelling, and it's clear they're an entirely unreliable witness. On the downside they leap the barrier and try to kill you.
111 - 175 Success +20 That went well, at this point, nobody in the court has the foggiest idea what to believe about their testimony.
176 up Absolute Success +30 You take them apart like a stack of bricks. The holes in their testimony are obvious and clear to everyone.

Routine +30 Terrified Subject
Easy +20 Frightened Subject
Light +10 Emotional Subject
Medium 0
Hard −10 Calm Subject
Very Hard −20 Indifferent Subject
Extremely Hard −30 Confident Subject
Sheer Folly −50 Highly Placed Subject
Absurd −70 Incorrigible Subject

Law

The fundamental skill that the lawyer brings to the courtroom is knowledge of the rules. Gamers should appreciate the importance of this. At its very heart, a courtroom drama is a contest of legal prowess. Each country and culture has a separate Law skill, not to mention separate underlying philosophies, jargon, procedures, and precedents. Trained lawyers will know who to talk to and how to get results with-in their domains. They will know the rights of the accused, the acceptability of evidence, the options for appeal and even what laws have been violated and the probable punishments assessed for them.

-26 down Spectacular Failure −50 Your painful misinterpretation of the law makes it apparent that all your legal education came from Hollywood movies.
-25 - 04 Absolute Failure −10 Wow, when you're wrong, you're really wrong. That law hasn't been on the books in a century.
05 - 75 Failure +0 Better hope the client is understanding. If there was a precedent or clause that would help, you didn't find it.
UM 66 Unusual Event Great, this obscure precedent you've discovered makes it clear that your case is without merit. Better hope the judge hasn't heard of it.
76 - 90 Partial Success +5 You're clear on the language but can't see any way it helps here.
91 - 110 Near Success +10 So, that's what that means! It's not much but at least you aren't going in empty handed.
UM 100 Unusual Success +25 Clear precedent gives you grounds to appeal the law itself on fundamental contradictions. Take that justice!
111 - 175 Success +20 You've done your homework and now it pays off.
176 up Absolute Success +30 The law is clear and you are its voice. They'll have a hard time discounting your case now.

Routine +30 Pleading Guilty
Easy +20 Mundane Case Work
Light +10 Petty Crime
Medium 0
Hard −10 Serious Crime
Very Hard −20 Capital Crime
Extremely Hard −30 Ground Breaking Work
Sheer Folly −50 Changing Fundamental Principles
Absurd −70 What Do You Mean Aliens vs. Atlantis?

Philosophy

Most legal systems are based on some philosophy or religious belief. Knowing these fundamentals can be a useful substitute for Law skill or a great tool for a lawyer seeking to show that the case being presented is within or outside the intent of the law. This is of course, very dependant on the flexibility and openness of the legal system. If they're executing innocent people because of imagined slights to the authority of a dusty old book, applying philosophy will probably just win the philosopher the same or worse fate as the accused.

-26 down Spectacular Failure −50 You've just realized that you can't justify your own existence. Spend the rest of the week gloomily gazing at your navel.
-25 - 04 Absolute Failure −10 Okay, this doesn't make any sense at all. You've got your principles and assumptions entirely tangled.
05 - 75 Failure +0 What is truth? Truth is that you should have studied harder in philosophy class.
UM 66 Unusual Event While contemplating the complexities of philosophy, you have a gripping vision of the absolute conflict of good and evil in the world. This might be a good time to find religion.
76 - 90 Partial Success +5 Okay, that makes sense. Well, at least your mom said it was good.
91 - 110 Near Success +10 Your reasoning holds together pretty well but there are still some loose ends.
UM 100 Unusual Success +25 The problem about earthshaking philosophical breakthroughs is that they are hard to communicate. But you get it. For the first time in your life you really get it!
111 - 175 Success +20 Your arguments are tight and succinct. You are certain in as much as there is certainty in abstract concepts.
176 up Absolute Success +30 Words mean whatever you want them to. That is, right now, your words mean whatever you want them to for anyone who cares to listen. This philosophy stuff is almost as good as lying.

Routine +30 Proving A Widely Accepted Idea
Easy +20 Reinforcing A Widely Accepted Idea
Light +10 Proving A Commonly Held Idea
Medium 0 Reinforcing A Commonly Held Idea
Hard −10 Undermining A Commonly Held Idea
Very Hard −20 Disproving A Commonly Held Idea
Extremely Hard −30 Undermining A Widely Held Idea
Sheer Folly −50 Disproving A Widely Held Idea
Absurd −70 Disproving A Negative

Psychology

Being able to "read" or "figure out" a witness can provide a bonus to attempts to discredit their testimony. Psychology is also the skill used to introduce a biased juror during jury selection.

-26 down Spectacular Failure −50 Welcome to their nightmare. Not only did you get it all wrong, you've made it worse and they blame you.
-25 - 04 Absolute Failure −10 Projecting your own issues onto others rather than making a clear assessment is a danger inherent in psychological work to which you have just become well accustomed.
05 - 75 Failure +0 It's not your fault that you don't get them, they're really, really weird.
UM 66 Unusual Event The subject develops an unhealthy fixation on you. I mean, really, any kind of fixation on you is unhealthy, but still.
76 - 90 Partial Success +5 There are certain things that are relatively common to human psychology and you got at least that much right.
91 - 110 Near Success +10 Getting right under their skin is a little too personal for your liking so you just do the basics and move on.
UM 100 Unusual Success +25 Well, I hope they aren't a psychopath because you've developed a rare and deep rapport and personal understanding. If you like you can have them under your thumb and completely in your power.
111 - 175 Success +20 You've got a clear, working understanding of what's going on in their head now.
176 up Absolute Success +30 You must say that your genius is entirely of your own making as is their state of mind. They are like putty in your hands.

Routine +30 Close Friend
Easy +20 Friendly Subject
Light +10 Casual Setting
Medium 0 Uncomfortable Setting
Hard −10 Hostile Subject
Very Hard −20 Irrational Subject
Extremely Hard −30 Foreign Subject
Sheer Folly −50 Insane Subject
Absurd −70 Alien Subject

Public Speaking

It's called a "courtroom drama" for a reason. The court is the great stage of public oration and there is no greater tool in evoking an emotional response than a gripping speech. Philosophers take note, nothing so damning as a dull and incomprehensible one. A top notch Lawyer needs Public Speaking skill in any system where the judiciary is in any way able to appreciate such things. Even impersonal computers get crabby when presented with long, poorly organized, and irrational speeches.

-26 down Spectacular Failure −50 Those whom you haven't put to sleep aren't paying attention.
-25 - 04 Absolute Failure −10 They may be mad at you but at least they aren't sleeping.
05 - 75 Failure +0 You neither convince nor impress the listeners.
UM 66 Unusual Event They're all paying rapt attention with a strange look in their eyes. What did you say anyhow? If only you could remember.
76 - 90 Partial Success +5 They're chuckling at inopportune times and smirking but at least they're listening.
91 - 110 Near Success +10 Sometimes brevity is the better part of valor. You say your piece as quickly as possible, sit down, and shut up.
UM 100 Unusual Success +25 You go on at length meandering in and out of obscure philosophical notions and people listen. By the time you're done they're giving you a round of applause.
111 - 175 Success +20 The holy grail is clarity and you have supped from the sacred cup.
176 up Absolute Success +30 Oratory is an art form and you are an artist. You have their attention and use it to your best advantage. Perhaps its time to look into a career in politics?

Routine +30 Sensational Topic
Easy +20 Amusing Anecdotes
Light +10 Interesting Subject Matter
Medium 0 Heartfelt Rant
Hard −10 Intellectual Diatribe
Very Hard −20 Dull Topic
Extremely Hard −30 Dry Details
Sheer Folly −50 Numbers and Statistics
Absurd −70 Badly Written Gibberish

Research

Precedent is the recorded history of what has been done in past cases and is vital to most legal systems that hope to present at least a modicum of credibility. Even the greatest lawyer cannot hope to know the results of every case ever heard in a court. This makes Research a vital tool when seeking obscure precedents for difficulty cases.

Modern evidence is also complex and based on specialized disciplines. Faced with the technicalities of forensic medicine, accounting, and computing, a lawyer must be prepared to study the specifics of the case and the general context of the evidence if they are to achieve results in the courts.

-26 down Spectacular Failure −50 Oh, that was a synonym. Looks like you've researched the wrong material and even then come up with incorrect data.
-25 - 04 Absolute Failure −10 This is impossibly dull stuff. Fall asleep at your desk and fail to learn anything useful.
05 - 75 Failure +0 Drowning in information isn't fatal but at this point you wish it were.
UM 66 Unusual Event Well, isn't that interesting. Get sidetracked by a far more interesting related subject that won't help at all with what you were looking for but is hugely helpful with another present matter.
76 - 90 Partial Success +5 The encyclopedia is a good place to start; too bad you didn't get much farther.
91 - 110 Near Success +10 You find what you're looking for but can't be sure you understand it.
UM 100 Unusual Success +25 The first book you open has what you need on the page it falls open to. While this is convenient you do some additional digging just to make it look good.
111 - 175 Success +20 It's nice when you can find what you need without too much hassle but otherwise determination and organization will serve.
176 up Absolute Success +30 This stuff is great. You get so involved and your notes are so complete that can publish them as a book on the subject.

Routine +30 Propaganda
Easy +20 Popular Entertainment
Light +10 Dated Entertainment
Medium 0 Academic Fundamentals
Hard −10 Advanced Academic
Very Hard −20 Specialized Academic
Extremely Hard −30 Obscure Academic
Sheer Folly −50 Occult Works
Absurd −70 Obscure Occult Works