30 Days Before Trial: It’s All About Teamwork

Elise Dresser, Jessica Te

Trial is fast approaching. With 30 days left before the starting date, how will you accomplish all the tasks that remain? It’s time to work together and utilize your support staff to get you successfully through the final push to trial.

30 days until trial

  • Schedule regular meetings with your trial team. Your trial team will include all attorneys, paralegals, legal assistants, and records staff working on the case. Hammer out the details of everyone’s involvement, determine who is responsible for each task, and agree on a game plan that provides the best support.
  • Decide which documents to include in your trial binders. These may include notices to appear, subpoenas, witness charts, deposition summaries, witness examination outlines and exhibits, a trial brief, jury instructions, and other documents specific to your case.
  • Monitor the court docket and check the website for court updates.
  • Finalize your support staff, which will consist of legal assistants, paralegals, and records staff. Also, consider the vendors, witnesses, and jury consultants that you’ll need for your case, if necessary. Provide plenty of advance notice about deadlines and trial dates.
  • Decide who the main point of contact will be on your support staff. This person will receive instructions and tasks from the attorneys at the courthouse. They will need to coordinate and distribute those tasks to the rest of the support staff at the office.
  • Courtroom configurations. Scout the courtroom layout, determine what equipment is available, and find out if the judge has any specific standing orders regarding trial procedures. Contact the courtroom clerk and schedule a day to visit the courtroom. Introduce yourself to the courtroom clerk, court reporter, and bailiff. These individuals are crucial to ensuring smooth operations in the courtroom. Exchange contact information, if possible.
  • Ask questions about your specific court. There may be details you need to know about the courtroom that may not be in the local rules or in the judge’s standing rules. Courtroom staff are a valuable source of information about judges and their specific preferences. Consider asking the following questions:
    • What courtroom idiosyncrasies should you be aware of?
    • What is the courtroom’s daily trial schedule?
    • What is the procedure for requesting a transcript of the day’s proceedings?
    • Can you deliver equipment or store items in the courtroom?
    • Will someone in the courtroom help set up laptops and other devices?
    • Confirm that the courtroom can interface with your devices.
  • Exhibit and witness binders. Know how many copies the court will need and what method you’ll use to label documents. Always make a master copy of trial and exhibit binders for support staff and keep extra copies at the office. 
  • Meet regularly with your IT team to discuss equipment needed for trial, which may include laptops, projectors, hot-spot devices, and more. If needed, assist with setting up the equipment on the day of trial.

The legal assistants and paralegals on your team can assist with the following tasks:

  • Have vendors on standby to copy trial binders, exhibits, display boards, and electronic demonstratives, and to deliver them to the courthouse, etc.
  • Ensure that court reporters are ready and available for the duration of the trial. Be sure to confirm available dates and times, and payment preferences, with court reporters.
  • Prepare standby or on-call letters to witnesses.
  • Confirm transportation, hotel accommodations, and a remote office space for attorneys, support staff, clients, witnesses, experts, vendors, and/or jury consultants. Be aware of cancellation policies and be alert to any possible changes. Research hotels near the courthouse and make reservations several months in advance. If you have local co-counsel, work with them when finalizing logistics.

As time slips away, new sets of deadlines and to-do items will arise. Learn how you can prepare during the last two weeks days before trial in the final blog of this series, 14 Days Before Trial: The Home Stretch.” 

In case you missed it, check out our previous blog about preparing sixty days before trial: “60 Days Before Trial: Ready, Set, Go!”

About the author Elise Dresser

Elise is a legal assistant for the employment law team.  From opening a file to going to trial, she attends to each phase of each case with great care.   

About the author Jessica Te

As a member of McManis Faulkner’s marketing team, Jessica assists the firm in its outreach efforts.