The rehearsals are over and the morning of the big performance has arrived. Emotions are high and the anxiety in the air is thick. It is time to execute what you have been practicing and hope you receive a standing ovation from the crowd, or in this case a judgment in your favor from the judge or jury. Here are a few tips to keep your performance on point as the trial unfolds:
Follow your Leader
The attorneys are the lead actor and choreographer of your show. What they say goes. When presenting exhibits digitally during trial you will run into issues with objections from opposing counsel about displaying images or documents before a foundation is laid for the document. It is important to follow your attorney’s lead and not to pull exhibits off the screen or put them up until instructed to do so. This ensures that the attorney is in control of what is displayed or not displayed during their case – not you or opposing counsel. When a judge makes a ruling on displaying an exhibit, you should still wait for your attorney to give you confirmation to remove or display the exhibit. By not making hasty moves after a ruling, you and the attorney can get back on the same page before moving forward.
Be the Liaison
In theater, sometimes your lead actor needs to be able to focus on their role and not get distracted socializing with their other cast members. In trial, this may become true between your attorney and the client. It is always good to know from your attorney if they can juggle the responsibility of client management at the same time as trial presentation. If your attorney prefers to focus on the case then the paralegal needs to be ready to jump in and keep the client calm and happy while the attorney works their magic. This is not a knock on the client, but instead a strategic move to ensure that the client gets the best results possible. Make sure the client knows you have nothing but their best interest at heart and that is why they may or may not have contact with the attorney directly during the court proceedings. In the end, if the attorney can focus on the case and present a strong and well supported argument with no distractions then everybody wins!
Be Prepared for Anything
Be prepared for a witness to make a statement that sends your case flying in a different direction than initially planned. This means that different exhibits maybe used during direct or cross-examination and you will have to be quick to ensure your presentation is seamless even though it is different than what you had practiced. Teamwork with your attorney will play a huge factor in your ability to go along with these changes as though they were planned. Make sure you have an open line of communication from the beginning of trial preparation with your attorney and that you are on the same page when it comes to the case. Once you are in synch, the two of you can begin to develop non-verbal or short statement cues to use at trial. These non-verbal or short statement cues will be instrumental in keeping both of you on track with the new plan without alerting the judge, jury or opposing counsel to the sudden change in plans.
Just like in theater, the show must go on even when the trial is not going the way you thought it would. By ensuring good communication with your attorney from the beginning and knowing your exhibits, paralegals can give a brilliant performance regardless of the circumstances. Trial preparation can be a crazy time but once you put all the pieces together, it really is fun to watch your attorney display their brilliance on the trial stage and know that you were an integral part of the performance. Stay calm and remember to have some fun!
Emily Brady is a paralegal at McManis Faulkner. She assists attorneys in all practice areas. Throughout discovery and trial preparation, she supports the legal teams with research and documentation and is also called upon to help with case management and scheduling. Outside of the office, Emily can be seen singing and dancing in local theatre productions.