I have a Syracuse New York wrongful death trial coming up in about six weeks. Six weeks may seem like a long time to you, but for preparing a complex trial, it is not. I started gearing up a few weeks ago.
The first thing I do is create a “to do” list for the trial preparation. As I get things done on my list, it feels good to cross them off. My list gets shorter and shorter.
In this case, my “to do” list is still quite long. There will be, I believe, more than 30 witnesses. I have to prepare “direct examinations” of the witnesses I am going to call, and “cross-examinations” of the ones I expect my opponents to call. And you don’t just “wing it” up there. No, that’s a recipe for disaster. You have to plan out carefully every line of questioning, and have exhibits and deposition transcripts ready to confront any witness who strays from the truth!
Another thing I do before a trial is look at how other experienced lawyers have handled similar trials. This is a wrongful death claim, so will watch some DVD’s of opening statements and summations given by other lawyers in wrongful death trials. This gives me fresh ideas of how to structure, organize and present this kind of case.
You also have to figure out how to get all the exhibits into evidence, what witnesses to use to talk about them, and anticipate objections you might receive from opposing counsel.
And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
If you watch “Law and Order” or other TV law programs, you might think being a trial lawyer is just about going to court and trying cases. But that’s only about 5% of it. The other 95% is preparation at your desk, on your computer, and on the phone or in conference with witnesses. I can’t say it’s exciting, and sometimes it’s downright boring, but it’s absolutely essential.
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