No matter if you are a young attorney or one with years of experience, it is always best practice to freshen up on your legal and courtroom skills. While below are some tips on how to help you succeed in the courtroom in your first trial, many of these concepts can be applied outside of the courtroom, as well.
- Always meet your deadlines: Whether the deadline to meet is pre-suit or after filing a lawsuit, you will always have deadlines in your cases. From preserving a statutory right to requesting the case be heard to providing a mediation statement, you should take careful note of every single one. You should also have reminders to make sure you are preparing for your deadlines as far ahead of time as possible.
- Learn from others: Before you are set to go to trial, go to the courthouse and sit in on others. This will help you strategize on how to present your client’s story and also learn about the presiding judge’s courtroom manners. If you know what to expect at trial, arbitration, or mediation, you will be much more relaxed when handling your case.
- Decide on judge or jury trial: In many cases either party involved in the matter has the right to request a jury trial, although some cases can only be heard by judges. Of note, jury trials tend to be more complicated than bench trials for numerous reasons. If the other side is granted a jury trial, however, you must prepare accordingly.
- Learn about courtroom procedure: Be sure to learn the basics, at a minimum, of the courtroom procedures that will govern your case. Get a copy of the court’s local rules as well as any other rules that may govern the matter.
- Know the elements of your case well: Because each legal claim has its own elements, be sure to learn them well and argue the facts and law that support your client has met his or her burden of proof. Notably, a plaintiff must prove every element of the case to win while a defendant only needs to disprove at least one element of the plaintiff’s case to win.
- Admissibility of evidence is key: It is no use to have evidence to prove your case if it is not admissible in a court of law. Study the rules of evidence closely so that you have enough evidence, and the right type of evidence, to win your client’s case.
Going to trial can be overwhelming, as trial preparation takes hours of focused and detailed work. Preparing a thorough trial notebook is key as it keeps you organized, labels important documents, and has all you need in one place.