Begin Your Trial Preparation By Stepping Back and Taking a Fresh and Objective Look at the Case You Have Been Living With
As a litigation attorney you have been living with the statutory and case law themes of your case for two or three years. You thought your case would settle because your facts are on point with the law. The court has been ruling in your favor and you feel the judge is working fairly with you.
Now you are unexpectedly and suddenly faced with a trial date racing at you like a well predicted storm. At the eye of the storm is the most unpredictable element you will ever face in your legal career: The American Jury. Don’t begin your trial preparation based upon your legal analysis as an attorney, that is the key element and you have it so deeply ingrained in your consciousness that it permeates every aspect of your thinking. Begin your trial preparation with the sacrosanct jury in mind. Using the contract services of an experienced trial paralegal can play an important part in your trial preparation process by turning your law and facts into a story and theme.
Trial Preparation Nuts and Bolts
As a contract litigation paralegal who is often retained by lawyers on the eve of trial, when I come into the case the law firm is usually in the middle of having a litigation secretary working on the joint witness and exhibit list. You have been living with your case for two or three years and so if you are bringing a contract paralegal in on the eve of trial you had better know what your exhibits and witnesses are.
Let’s go to the next trial preparation step. By the time you are talking to me you should be thinking of the visual mechanics of how you are going to get your exhibits in front of the jury. This post is intended to focus on the jury and courtroom physical mechanics and not the law and rules of evidence. This post is designed to get attorneys to contact me regarding trial courtroom presentation graphics and narrative.
Real Trial Preparation is Linear Narrative Preparation
How are you going to tell your trial story to the jury? What is your theme? Use your precious trial preparation time to create a story and theme for your opening argument. Research indicates that 80% of juries decide during opening argument which side they are on. Think about how frenetically motion picture style has evolved. Weapons of mass distraction have gotten audiences addicted to bright shiny objects. Your jury is expecting drama. Make your jury fall in love because that’s what they are expecting.
Trial preparation does not mean over reliance on multimedia such as PowerPoint and expensive software. We can do that if it is in your budget. Courtrooms these days all usually have splendid monitors to plug your paralegal’s laptop into.
Call me old school but I like old fashioned blow ups on foam core or poster board. Trial counsel can put them up and take them down, controlling the juries perceptions and emotions in a much warmer interaction than just having the trial preparation paralegal punch up slides on a monitor.
I also like the Elmo overhead projector in United States District Courtrooms. Christopher Darden once let me place Medicare fraud exhibits on the overhead projector in federal court on my own cognizance as I followed along with his closing argument narrative.
Trial Preparation Paralegal
My job as a contract litigation trial preparation paralegal is to calmly use my trial experience to help counsel put together the whole trial dog and pony show. Your job as the litigation attorney is to explain your legal authorities and facts to me. Start me with the big legal picture as we work together to present a compelling and persuasive total trial presentation for the jury. Juries are emotional. Stories are emotional. Let me show you how to emotionally and legally advocate your client’s position in the courtroom.
One consistent factor I see time and time again at trial is the jury becoming bored and disinterested around the fourth or fifth day of trial. Good trial preparation means engaging the jury from opening argument to closing argument with mental pictures that they can emotionally connect to. When beginning your trial preparation begin with the story you are going to tell the Great American Jury.