Part II: Going to Trial? Tips for Young Lawyers
In the second part of our trial tips series, we continue to provide guidance for young lawyers and more experienced ones who want to succeed at trial, or at least put their best case forward. Below are more tips from the American Bar Association (“ABA”) on preparing and conducting trials.
● Create Witness Outlines, Not Questions. The best way is to prepare an outline of areas of questions for witnesses instead of preparing questions ahead of time. Doing so allows you to tell a story through conversation instead of reading exact questions that prevent a fluid question-and-answer witness session. Do, however, have certain questions prepared to ask on redirect to establish a fact or to impeach on cross-examination.
● Expect evidentiary issues. Know the rules of evidence extremely well prior to trial. Re-read the rules so that they are fresh in your mind. Expect to anticipate objections and be prepared to address those objections. If you have a complicated evidentiary issue, prepare a short memo ahead of time so you have a roadmap for your arguments before the court. Be sure to include legal citations and provide the memo to the judge during arguments.
● Use Effective Visual Aids. Even in civil litigation cases, both judges and jurors expect a visual presentation of the case. These visuals should be used during opening statements, when you are examining witnesses, and during closing arguments. The aid will help tell your story visually and support your theory of the case.
● Draft Closing Arguments. Make sure that your closing statement cites both the evidence and the applicable law that supports the merits and theme of your client’s case. Your closing argument should be prepared before trial begins. Create an outline prior to trial that cites testimony and exhibits you expect to be admitted at trial; you can modify your closing as the evidence evolves during trial.
● Observe and Listen. Pay attention to the facial expressions of the jurors and the judge during trial. Also, be sure to listen to the messaging being given to the judge and jury. The questions asked or rulings made by a judge will typically indicate how he or she is thinking regarding important issues and who may be winning the case.
While trial textbooks and other books are vital to preparing for trial, it is best to take a practical approach. Make sure you are prepared for unexpected surprises. Also, ask for help from an attorney who has tried cases before. Experience is the best teacher.
For more trial tips, go to the ABA’s website. For assistance with service of process, contact us today.