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Preparing for Trial: the Big Push

Preparing for trial is a monumental undertaking. Often times, the amount of expense a party is likely to incur just to prepare for a trial is a major motivator for settling a case. Trial planning must take place well in advance of the actual trial, and it’s incumbent upon each party to assemble their documents, witnesses, arguments, and other evidence well in advance of the big showdown.

Advance planning for trial is absolutely critical. For one thing, witnesses who refuse to voluntarily show up to testify need to be subpoenaed, usually at least around two weeks before the trial, in order to obligate them to show up. Many trials will require that you and the other parties share your exhibits with one another well prior to the trial. You may also need to fill out a pretrial order, detailing all of these items for the judge.

Then, with regard to each witness who plans to testify, you need to have a plan for questioning the witness, and make sure you cover all the important information that witness needs to offer the jury. You need to know exactly which documents the witness is going to testify from.

For each document you need to use as evidence, you need to have a plan to authenticate it (meaning a plan to prove that it is what you say it is) and a plan to get the document past any hearsay objection or other evidence objection that you’re likely to face. The evidence rules are inordinately complicated–they devote an entire law school class to the subject–so we won’t be able to tackle them here.

There also likely to be a number of motions, including evidentiary motions, that will come up during the trial. In addition to planning your own motions, you’ll need to forecast the types of motions to expect from the opposition and plan your arguments for those carefully.

All told, while prepping for trial, your lawyer could very well be working past normal business hours for an entire week before the trial actually begins. Being adequately prepared for this monumental case event is absolutely critical.

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