The Trial Preparation Checklist
The purpose of the checklist is to ensure that all critical elements of trial preparation are addressed (depositions, witnesses, subpoenas, charts, photos, evidentiary issues, liability, damages, jury instructions, etc.). All items should be calendared and sufficient time allotted to obtain the winning edge. Start your final trial preparation at least 100 days before trial.
What to do at 100 days before trial?
A. Complete all remaining discovery. - Review all depositions, interrogatories and case documents/evidence - Follow up on non-responsive discovery and new areas to obtain information - Propound pre-trial discovery to ensure answers haven’t changed and to obtain updated information B. Expert witness designation - Research and investigate all potential areas of expert testimony anticipated - Interview and hire qualified experts - Designate experts - Meet with experts and clients - Determine areas of expert testimony needed and prepare to meet opposing expert contentions Analyze and identify key trial issues and motions in limine to narrow trial issues, preclude improper evidence, ensure critical evidence is allowed. Complete case investigation Consider (or prepare to defend) Motion for Summary Judgment or Summary Adjudication Identify and analyze trial presentation and technology needs in trial
What to do at 90 days before trial?
A. Identify and secure trial witnesses B. Pull together and prepare key evidence to present at trial C. Start thinking about demonstrative evidence and illustrative charts and graphs D. Make sure witnesses will be available to testify at trial (government witnesses, out of area witnesses, elderly witnesses). If problems are anticipated take their deposition and possibly video tape their testimony for use in trial.
What to do at 75 days before trial?
A. Final discovery - Documents, trial witnesses, experts - Obtain maps, charts, photos, blow ups, models, illustrations B. Settlement conference - If appropriate, set up and prepare for settlement opportunities - Be very prepared if serious settlement opportunities exist - Meet with clients early and go over expectations, pros & cons, costs, and all available options
What to do at 60 days before trial?
A. Prepare for pre-trial conference or issues conference B. Subpoena all witnesses to testify at trial C. Prepare and serve very specific notices to appear and produce documents at trial D. Prepare Jury Instructions and Special Verdict Form (if needed)
What to do at 45 days before trial?
A. Prepare trial notebook B. Start planning how witnesses will be presented at trial C. Summarize all depositions and begin examination outlines D. Prepare key witness examination outlines and reference exhibits needed
What to do at 30 days before trial?
A. Outline all elements of proof for each claim/affirmative defense (“Chart of Proof”) B. Meet with and prepare clients C. Provide clients with all their previous discovery responses and deposition to review D. Prepare witness deposition testimony/video testimony for presentation at trial E. Prepare the non-expert witnesses for trial F. Provide “On Call” letters to all witnesses and keep them up to date on scheduling G. Prepare and serve all Requests for Judicial Notice H. Prepare Trial Brief I. Consider serving a final CCP Section 998 Settlement Offer J. Prepare for final pre-trial conference / issue conference
The final days
Pull it all together. Draft opening statement and closing argument. Prepare jury instructions and special verdict forms well in advance to clearly determine legal issues and areas of proof. Prepare witness exams and determine what exhibits need to be addressed by each witness. Anticipate legal issues and evidentiary issues and brief them. Remember, nothing ever goes exactly as planned. Prepare for the unexpected and be ready to adapt to changes in trial.