Trial Preparation for Paralegals By Dana Goggans, ACP Paralegals are challenged every day with normal duties but when it comes time for trial preparation, the challenge takes on a whole new meaning. Trial preparation can range from normal duties, late nights pouring through documents, to last minute technology issues. This is not an exhaustive list of what to do in preparing for trial but a good place to start.
Duties • Draft initial trial exhibit and witness lists – If the paralegal can take the first punch at this, it will leave the attorneys more time to concentrate on the arguments of the matter. It also will save the client money because a paralegal’s time is billed out at a lower rate. • Prepare witness binders for witnesses that are anticipated to be called during trial – This is a good idea because rather than trying to remember or fumble through voluminous documents to find that “needle in the haystack”, a witness notebook can be grabbed when sitting down to prepare that witness. These notebooks can also be used during trial with that particular witness and makes it easier for the attorney to call out the document if it is pre-numbered with a trial exhibit.
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• Keep an updated list of witnesses and experts contact information with you so they are easily accessible – a witness can be called at any minute during a trial, and sometimes out of order, so it is a good idea to be able to call them and let them know that they may have to give testimony that day or the very next morning. • Take copies of any pending motions or pleadings that need to be ruled upon before trial can begin – There will most likely be pending motions or “housekeeping” matters that need to be cleaned up before trial can begin.
Checklist It is a good idea to have a checklist of what to take to the trial, including but not limited to, rule books for reference, depositions, along with any summaries, correspondence, pleadings and lots of supplies. Don’t forget to have multiple copies of the following (while making sure you have the most recent versions): • Trial Exhibits • Any case law used to prove your case or rebut the opposition. • Any PowerPoint presentation that you plan to display during trial. • If you are using trial presentation
software (trial director, concordance, etc.), it is always a good idea to have a backup with you just in case you encounter a computer problem or one of your documents is corrupted.
Electronic Aids More electronic necessities to ensure an organized front include: ✔ Take a laptop with wireless connection so that you can receive any email that needs to be handled immediately regarding the current trial. Laptops can also hold electronic documents needed during this time and used to play presentations. ✔ Take flash drives so you can transfer documents back and forth. ✔ Take a cell phone so you can text or run out in hall and make calls, if needed. Be sure to remember to turn off the sound when in the courtroom. ✔ Take blow-ups to courtroom – it would be easier to put them in order they will displayed, if this is known in advance. Some of these may be used in opening and/or closing statements, so it is a good idea to keep these close by at all times.
as a paralegal. However, if your team is not victorious this time, you will have learned a valuable experience and better luck next time. All things considered, as a paralegal professional, always try to keep your composure under pressure. This is an overwhelming experience for ALL involved.
assistant and has worked in the legal field for more than 20 years. She is currently a member of the National Association of Legal Assistants, Alabama Association of Paralegals, American Association for Justice and a former member of the paralegal division of the State Bar of Texas. firstname.lastname@example.org
Dana Goggans, ACP is a trial paralegal with the law firm of Haskell Slaughter Young & Rediker, LLC in Birmingham, Alabama. She has worked as a paralegal since 1996 with the last fourteen years in securities litigation. Prior to that, she worked as a legal
Requirements for all attorneys and trials are never the same. Each judge also has his or her own requirements. While working closely with your attorneys, be sure to update your team on any rules or guidelines and check with the judge’s clerks for other information or questions you may have. Last, the paralegal needs to have the ability to work in a focused manner when under extreme deadlines. There will be little rest and lots of changes throughout the trial. Things will seem to get disarrayed and you will start to wonder if you will ever get through this. Keep one thing in mind, if you make it out alive, and you will, and if your team is victorious, it is one of the most rewarding experiences you will have
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