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What is it like to be on trial?

Anaheim, CA |

From an attorney's perspective and experience, what is it like for the plantiff or a defendant at a jury trial? What are some tips for not cracking (messing up) at a trial?

Thank you.

Attorney Answers 4


I think the answer depends on if you are a plaintiff or a defendant, and if your position is strong or weak. A defendant often faces serious consequences from the loss. A plaintiff does not receive compensation for a wrong if there is a loss. Both can be very serious and life changing, but the defendant, unless fully insured, probably faces more fear, and the plaintiff risks great disappointment.

If you have a good trial attorney, the trial is still somewhat nerve-wracking, but you are not also consumed with issues about how your attorney is handling the case. With a weak attorney, much energy and emotion is used second guessing the attorney or wishing you had hired a more experienced or more passionate trial attorney.

As a party, you are the focus of the jury even when court is in recess. Everyone is looking at you, assessing your body language, and watching how you interact with others in the hallway and in the courtroom. Even away from the courthouse, you have to remain cognizant that there could be a juror in the same restaurant or grocery store.

On the witness stand, your memory will be tested and your truthfulness will be challenged. You need to stay very alert and listen to every word being spoken. It is stressful and tiring.

The best way to avoid cracking is to have an entirely truthful case and a very good trial attorney. Get plenty of sleep, and trust your attorney.

Good luck to you.

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I have been the plaintiff in more than one lawsuit. I think it is one of the the hardest ways imaginable to "earn" money.

Lawsuits are very stressful, often in ways that attorneys aren't focused on. The fact that so many parties have reasons and purposes for their position in the suit that aren't about the money means that issues of personal integrity, character, reputation, and self-respect are sometimes inextricably entwined with the legal issues and facts. Certainly it is not true in every case, but in many cases the emotional ride can be overwhelming. Of course, the degree of stress and emotional strain often correlates to the subject matter of the case. Everything in family law is very hard for everybody. Employment lawsuits are often emotionally challenging for the former employee.

The very best way to get through a potentially difficult trial is to make every effort to truly turn it over to the lawyer. Play-by-play analysis should be avoided if at all possible, as should the temptation to second-guess the lawyer or to assume bias by the court and others. All of these will cloud your focus and make the trial harder than it is already going to be.

My responses to questions on Avvo are never intended as legal advice and must not be relied upon as legal advice. I give legal advice only in the course of an attorney-client relationship. Exchange of information through Avvo's Questions forum does not establish an attorney-client relationship with me. That relationship is established only by individual consultation and execution of a written agreement for legal services.

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In addition to the great advice Mr. Pedersen and Ms. McCall gave, I have a suggestion. If you have some time during the week, take a trip down to the Orange County courthouse in Santa Ana and sit in on a civil jury trial that is in progress. The best days to go are Monday through Thursday. There is a board in the lobby that lists the parties but you probably won't know what the case is about until you sit in. All civil courts are open to the public. You can observe the parties, the lawyers, judge, and jurors. Real trials are not good TV, very rarely is there any drama, but there is no better way to get an idea of what to expect when its your turn.

They say you get what you pay for, and this response is free, so take it for what it is worth. This is my opinion based on very limited information. My opinion should not be taken as legal advice. For true advice, we would require a confidential consultation where I would ask you questions and get your complete story. This is a public forum, so remember, nothing here is confidential. Nor am I your attorney. I do not know who you are and you have not hired me to provide any legal service. To do so would require us to meet and sign written retainer agreement. My responses are intended for general information only.

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Neil Pedersen

Neil Pedersen


Great idea!


Everyone has had one – or more: the nightmare case, or the “case from hell.” Liability seems problematic, damages approach the catastrophic range, and the other lawyerl is difficult to deal with. After being bombarded with discovery requests, incurring adverse orders, and suffering through depositions it's time for trial. It's NO FUN.

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