Trials can be stressful, to say the least. As you approach the days and weeks leading up to a trial, whether small or large, there are steps you can take to make things go more smoothly. Obviously, every practice area and every firm will have unique needs, but we hope this trial preparation checklist for paralegals will help to take the stress out of the process.
Step 1: Outline The Case
Most experienced attorneys and paralegals will tell you the key to success all starts with a thorough understanding of the case. One way to keep this in clear focus from the start is an outline. As soon as you know the case is being set for trial, you should create a formal case outline. Here are just a few of the things you can put in your case outline:
- List of key issues in dispute. Trials are designed to litigate the disputed issues. Anything that has been stipulated or previously determined should be noted, but you want to focus on the key issues in dispute that will make the difference.
- List of Rules. You need to prepare a quick reference for any evidentiary rules, local court rules, or court orders that will be key to witness testimony or introducing evidence. Perhaps there is a crucial piece of evidence you suspect the other side will object to. Be sure to have your arguments ready for quick reference.
- Plaintiff and defendant theories. Create a bullet-point list of theories and allegations that are in dispute. List them for each side or each party.
- Witness list. Some choose to organize witness lists by issue; others organize them in order of the witness’s appearance. Either way, be sure to have a list of witnesses and the topics and issues they will address. It’s important to organize your list in a way that makes sense to your trial team.
Step 2: Create A Trial Binder Or Packet
After you have an outline, you can easily convert that into a trial binder or trial packet. Attorneys differ on how they organize their binders, so be sure to find out what the lead attorney wants. The binder is a terrific tool for staying organized at trial while keeping important evidence and arguments quick at hand.
Step 3: Create Deadlines
As you begin filling the trial binder, create a set of deadlines. For instance, it the trial is three months away, perhaps you’d like to set deadlines for gathering all documentary evidence—then another deadline for coordinating visual graphics, and so forth.
Step 4: Delegate Tasks
No one should be 100 percent responsible for all trial preparation tasks. One person might be in charge of coordinating graphic and visual evidence, while another may be in charge of legal research and gathering arguments for key disputes. It’s crucial to delegate these responsibilities from the beginning.
Step 5: Coordinate Visual Aides & Evidence Strategies
If you’re working closely with a litigation services company, make sure you keep them in the loop so they can help you make your case as strong as possible.
Step 6: Set A Final Review
Set a final date for completion. This is the day when the entire legal team will review the trial binder and go through a mock trial—or at minimum do a walk-through of the case.
Step 7: Execute
Go to trial, and work to win your case.
Get Help With Expert Litigation Services
Even with a trial preparation checklist for paralegals at your disposal, the process can be hectic, especially for a small team. That’s where litigation support specialists like AWR can help. With services ranging from eye-popping visual aids and graphic displays to court reporting, eDiscovery and more, A. William Roberts, Jr. & Associates has custom solutions to help litigation teams of all sizes and needs. Contact us for more information or to schedule a deposition today.