- Make a hard copy of every single document to be used at trial and place it in your own personal banker's box. That includes witness and exhibit lists and resumes. Keep that box under your own lock and key. If time permits, you can also scan the documents and have them stored on a flash drive or external hard drive. In that way, no matter what the attorney loses - you have a backup copy that has never left your possession.
- Test the equipment under a variety of circumstances, including the courtroom. Some power point programs may initially start up, but be unable to last for a long period of time because the courtroom electrical current will not sustain the usage. And, some equipment (trust me on this one) may have to be unplugged or plugged in using a specific method. Find that out ahead of time and write down all the steps. You do not want to rely upon your memory while standing in front of a room full of attorneys staring at you.
- Parking at the courthouse. Can you park just outside and carry the boxes in? Or is parking three blocks away. Are there parking meters? Will you need change? Is there a time limit on parking? How long will it take for you to carry the boxes into the courtroom? Can you set up for trial a day in advance?
- Where can you place your materials in the courtroom? Is there a table? Will you need to stack boxes? Can you get in and out of the courtroom discreetly during the trial?
- Where are the electrical outlets? Are your extension cords long enough? Where can you set up the power point or projector? Can you do that ahead of time and leave it throughout the trial? Or will you need to assemble and disassemble each day?
- Will your telephone work in the courthouse? Is there an area where you can speak privately without being overheard? Have your telephone numbers stored in your phone and also have a hard copy. Get the court clerk's telephone number as well. Give that number to your witnesses and the office staff in case of emergencies.
- Where is the closest photocopy store? Is it within walking distance or will you have to drive? Yes, your hotel might have a copier and it might just work or not. And it might take all day to work. You need to know this ahead of time. And what about faxes? Perhaps you can get documents faxed to the court staff, but you might need something faxed after hours.
- Give every witness directions to the courthouse. Send them a letter and also an email - you never know which one they want to use. Tell them about the parking situation, including meters, side streets, and parking lots.
- Talk with the court reporter the first day of trial about getting overnight transcripts. Get her telephone number. Give her your telephone number. Talk to your office about the procedure for getting checks written after hours.
- Not everyone has long distance vision. And what if that power point presentation goes out? The power point slides and/or records need to be page numbered and a trial notebook should be given to each juror so they can follow along either in their notebook or on the screen. The attorney should always include references to the number at the bottom of the page when discussing the document. (Do yourself a favor and suggest this to your attorney ahead of time.)
- Have a contact person back at the office that you can call day or night for assistance.
- And one important final note - learn who to ask and how to ask for help. Start the first day you are at the courthouse. Introduce yourself to the court staff. Recognize that these people have a wealth of knowledge and tap into that resource. They are happy to help someone who is pleasant and courteous. Be humble. Don't be afraid to say "Could you help me?" - to the court staff, to the guy at the copy place, to your assistant back at the office, or the security guard at the courthouse. And thank them - profusely!
Peggy K. Little has been a litigation attorney since 2002 and is the sole owner of the Little Law Office located in Indianapolis, Indiana. Prior to becoming an attorney Ms. Little was a paralegal for almost ten years. She is listed as one of the 2014 top ranked U.S. Executives of the National Council of American Executives, 2011/2012 Who's Who Registry Among Executives, Professionals, and Entrepreneurs, the 2009 Cambridge Who's Who Among Executives and Professionals, and the 2008 Metropolitan Who's Who Among Executive and Professional Women. Ms. Little was an adjunct professor at Marian University and has taught several legal courses, including Legal Practice and Method, Civil Litigation, Litigation, and Legal Ethics.
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