So, trial is approaching and your case did not settle? Your lawyer is now telling you that your case is definitely heading to a trial even though that option seemed unlikely at first. You’re going to trial!
Trials are usually an all or nothing proposition. By their nature, trials are risky, but they serve a necessary function. Most of our overwhelmingly successful outcomes for clients are achieved at trial. The clients whose cases succeeded at trial felt just as nervous as you do as trial quickly approaches. So, trial is now upon you. I hope you can relax, sleep well, and enjoy the process for what it is.
Hopefully this article will demystify the process of trial for you.
Question 1: How time-consuming will trial be for me?
Answer: All cases are unique in this regard. Generally, in the month before trial, you should expect to field one to two calls per week from my staff or me. It may be just a quick call to ask you to inform friends on the witness list that I will be calling them. Also, I may call you to discuss trail strategy. On average, expect to spend about an hour per week on the phone with a paralegal or me in the month before trial.
Expect at least one in-person meeting with me, usually on the Saturday or Sunday before trial. Oftentimes, that meeting will include witnesses like your friends and family.
During the week of trial, you will need to be at court with me every day of the trial. Trial usually lasts a week. You will need to be in the courtroom from 8:30 a.m. until 5 p.m. every day. You should not expect court to proceed at night. However, on the evening before your testimony, you should expect to meet with me for a few hours for prep work.
Generally, as the plaintiff, you will not testify on the first day of trail. Most likely, the trial will be on its second or third day before we call you to the stand. Because you will be present for the whole trial, you should be more comfortable about the process when you testify.
Question 2: What, if anything should I tell friends, family, or boss?
Tell your closest friends and family that your case is going to trial. During the week of trial, you’re going to be unavailable to take calls or email until after 5 p.m. each day.
During the trial, be careful when you talk to friends and family members who are witnesses in your case. Witnesses are not allowed to watch trial so that other witnesses do not improperly influence their testimony. Consequently, witnesses are not allowed to watch trial and can only be in the courtroom when they are testifying. You will be present for the whole trial. You might be tempted to tell your friends and family how the trial is going, but you must fight this urge because you would be violating a court order.
Question 3: What's Expected of Me?
I expect my clients to help me with the trial. I will likely ask you questions during the trial like how you feel about a prospective juror or what you think about a particular witness. Please be honest with me. I respect your opinions. Also, jurors, who are generally as new to the process as you, will see things like you do. I’m not asking for your praise. I’m looking for brutal honesty. Based on what you tell me, I may ask a witness different questions, bring in different witnesses, or alter my strategy. Your input is really important.
I will also need you to turn off your cell phone and pay attention. You must avoid distractions and be attentive to the trial process. If you don’t pay attention some jurors will notice and wonder why they should pay attention.
You should also do your homework. I can tell when a client hasn’t read his deposition or reviewed his medical records like I asked him to do before giving testimony. When I give you homework, it’s because I think it will help you avoid problems on the witness stand.
Questions. 4: How Should I Dress?
Dress the way you would if you were attending church on a normal Sunday (not Easter or Christmas). Dress respectfully, but not flashy or ostentatious. Excess jewelry, too much makeup, or looking too rich or too fashionable rarely works in court. If you have tattoos and they can be reasonably covered with long sleeves or pants, consider doing so.
Question 5: How Do We Pick a Jury?
In Colorado, jurors are not selected as much as they are de-selected. Each side is given a certain number of jurors they can eliminate from the jury pool. I expect clients to voice their opinions about possible jurors. After all, there are usually certain types of people that you do not get along with. Consequently, I need you to speak up if you are concerned about certain jurors.
At the beginning of trial, each side is given a certain amount of time to question prospective jurors. After each side has their turn, a list of jurors is passed back and forth between the lawyers. The list contains the names of every prospective juror. Each lawyer gets to cross off the names of prospective jurors until six or seven remain.
Question 6: Can My Family Attend And Watch?
Yes, if they are not scheduled to testify. If they are scheduled to testify, they can watch only the closing argument at the end of the case.
Questions 7: What Do I Do if I See A Juror?
Jurors will be instructed not to talk to any trial participants. Parties are also not allowed to speak or interact with jurors. They will be told that if you look away and say nothing to them, you are simply complying with the court order. After we win, the jury will be free to talk with you at length.
Once, I celebrated a jury trial win with some of the jurors after the trial. This is rare because after a week of serving on a jury, most jurors chose to leave without talking to anyone when the verdict comes out.
Question 8: Will I Get a Chance To Tell My Story?
Yes. I generally bring my client to the stand after all other witnesses have testified. You get to bat cleanup.
At Anderson, Hemmat & McQuinn, we want our clients to be prepared for trial. Part of preparing for trial is understanding that it is not some mystical unknowable process. Not every case goes to trial, but sometimes it is a necessity. I hope that this article has answered some questions and made you feel more comfortable with going to trial, if that is what your case requires.