Going to court can be overwhelming, even for seasoned criminal lawyers who have done it before. Though estimates indicate that only 2 percent of federal criminals go to trial, there are approximately 80,000 cases each year.
The right to a lawyer means that anyone who is standing before a judge will have an attorney present. For lawyers, that means being as prepared as possible to help the defendant state their case.
As a lawyer, a trial preparation checklist can help you be as ready as you can be when your day in court arrives.
Keep reading for the pre trial tips you need and learn how to put together a sample trial checklist that you can mark off as you complete each task.
1. Discuss Trial Risks
Though some criminals don’t go to jail after a trial, most are found guilty. Before you go into the courtroom, discuss with your client the risks of going ahead with the trial.
You’ll also want to talk about the costs of the trial and what might happen if they accept a plea bargain. Making sure your client knows what to expect is the first thing that should be on your criminal trial preparation checklist.
2. Complete Discovery
This is something you can add to a trial preparation checklist for paralegals, as they can help you complete this task before your day in court arrives.
During this phase of discovery, go over all the documents and follow up on communications with those involved in the trial. Make sure you are ready with answers to any questions that come up along the way.
This is also a good time to go over the evidence in the case and how you might use it for your argument.
3. Gather Your Witnesses
Witnesses can make or break a trial. Before trial, research potential witnesses and interview any experts you’ll be calling to the stand.
Practice testimony and go over what the prosecution might ask so that your witnesses are as prepared as possible when they take the stand.
When it comes to a family law trial preparation checklist, be sure that you are prepared for interviewing children. This might require a guardian or law enforcement officer to be present during questioning.
4. Draft Your Statements and Prepare Documents
As your court day gets closer, you’ll want to draft your opening and closing statements. These statements are your chance to argue your case so spend some time crafting them so they hold up.
Just before trial, you also need to prepare jury questionnaires, verdict forms, witness exams, and any legal issues that may arise in court.
You’ll also want to be ready with evidence and which witness matches with each item so that your argument is consistent throughout the trial.
This is also a good time to finish preparing your client so they are ready to take the stand. Practice your questions and go over everything several times before the court day arrives.
Use the materials at exhibitindexes.com to help you put together a checklist specific to your case.
Getting the Most Out of Your Trial Preparation Checklist
Your trial preparation checklist will generally look the same for each trial, but you may need to customize it a bit for each. This checklist is an invaluable tool for ensuring that you are ready when your day in court arrives.
Before you go, check out all of our other great advice for getting things done.