Preparation for Trial:
Assembling Your Case And Trial Material
“As a general rule the most successful man in life is the man who has the best information.”
— Benjamin Disraeli
“The person who goes farthest is generally the one who is willing to do and dare. The sure-thing boat never gets far from shore.”
— Dale Carnegie
“The man who removes a mountain begins by carrying away small stones.”
— Chinese Proverb
This chapter will equip you to:
- Determine what you want the Court to do for you and how you want the Court to do it
- Learn how to determine what’s important and what’s not and then gather the important information
- Begin preparing your case in a step-by-step way following Court rules and procedures
- Understand the basics of the Rules of Evidence
As a litigant you will likely walk into court with a number of disadvantages, any one of which can seriously undermine your claim and wind up costing you time, money and hours of frustration. Self-represented litigants are rookies without the benefit of trial experience or a law school education. They don’t have colleagues in the field to consult with or the ready resources of law firms. Where paid-attorneys can bill fifty or sixty hours a week preparing their cases for trial, more often than not you have a full-time job to tend to and your dalliances in the law are likely to be, at best an after-hours pursuit.
Additionally, you have the added prejudices of nearly the entire professional legal community to wrestle with – everyone from filing clerks and court reporters all the way up to his honor the judge – all of whom have probably endured disorganized, unprofessional self-represented claimants many times in their careers. Is it any wonder that they’ve learned to groan and roll their eyes? No doubt about it. As a pro se litigant you are out there walking the point alone.
All of which makes your pre-trial preparation all the more important. With all these things stacked against you, preparing your case thoroughly in advance – working through the points of law, assembling your evidence and preparing your witnesses – is the single most important step you can take to nudge your case over the finish line. In fact, it is better not to go to court at all than to go with a case that is ill prepared. If you have any doubts that you will have either the time or skills to prepare you would be better served delaying the action or handing matters off to a qualified attorney.