Every case is different, and specific technical rules may vary by state. But one thing is certain, you need effective and highly organized exhibits to be successful in today’s courtroom. In fact, people retain about 65 percent more information when verbal messages are combined with visual images. So, when you’re preparing exhibits for trial, it’s important to keep in mind the big picture: you’ve got to show, not just tell. With this in mind, here are six straightforward steps to help as you prepare exhibits for courtroom presentations.
Step 1: Give Yourself Time
Every court has different rules and procedures for sharing potential exhibits with opposing counsel. You don’t want your exhibits stricken because you failed to give enough notice to the other side. Confirm what’s required, and give yourself time.
Step 2: Make A List & Check It Twice
Naturally, you must know exactly which exhibits you really need. Go through your case file and determine what will truly help your arguments. Make a list of each document, video, photograph, or other type of exhibit you plan to use. Then write up a quick note to yourself for how that exhibit will be used.
Step 3: Get Organized
Once you know what exhibits you’ll be using, you will want to organize them in the order in which you believe you will be introducing them. Of course, things happen in trials, and you may need to introduce one earlier. Still, it’s a good practice to think about order.
Step 4: Check The Rules
Since there are many different local court rules, be sure to check with the judge’s clerk to find out the following types of information:
- Does the judge give each side a “range” of exhibit numbers, or are they simply numbered from one and up, chronologically for each side?
- Are there requirements for the color or type of exhibit stickers used?
- How many sets of exhibits will you need?
Step 5: Does Each Exhibit Do Its Job?
Once you have organized your exhibits and know what rules will apply, ask yourself whether they are (a) large enough, (b) the right type of media to accomplish their purpose, and (c) clear and easy to understand. Many otherwise excellent trial exhibits miss the mark, so to speak, because they confuse jurors. For instance, if you want to introduce a chart that shows a pattern of conduct, a white board with numbers may not be as effective as a dynamic multimedia animation that allows you to incrementally show increases or decreases over time.
Step 6: Practice, Practice, Practice
Once you’ve prepared your trial exhibits and gotten each one in the correct format or media for its intended purpose, now it is time to practice introducing them into evidence. Consider these questions with regard to each exhibit:
- Which witness will introduce this exhibit?
- At what point in my examination will I bring up this exhibit?
- Are there concerns that a witness may not be friendly or may not authenticate the exhibit for some reason? If so, how will this be handled in trial?
- What is the most important thing about the exhibit that I want the jury to understand, and how should I draw their focus to it?
Make Your Presentation Memorable
We hope this guide to preparing exhibits for trial has been helpful. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, don’t worry. You don’t have to do it all on your own. Offering expert litigation support, trial preparation and deposition services, the professionals at A. William Roberts, Jr. & Associates (AWR) can help you improve the impact of your presentation.
Contact us today to schedule services or request a quote.