- Start early and update frequently. Start organizing your file and compiling your trial notebook as soon as you get the open the case, this will save you time in the long run and will help you stay organized throughout the case. As the case moves along, continue to update your notebook by keeping the most recent version of filings and add in additional sections as needed.
- Make witness and exhibit lists. For your witnesses, keep up-to-date contact information as well as a list of any exhibits that they will introduce including whether a subpoena has been issued and served. For exhibit lists, have columns to mark which witness will introduce the exhibit, if it has been offered, and if it has been admitted. Go over the exhibits with the court reporter after each day in court to ensure that both of you have the correct exhibits being admitted.
- Make friends with staff. Be cordial and cooperative with the other sides paralegal and support staff, the judge's administrative assistant, court reporter and the clerk's office personnel. You never know when you will need something quickly and having a good relationship with staff will make it easier and quicker to get things done.
- View the Courtroom. Prior to any hearing or trial, call the Judge's administrative assistant and physically go and view the courtroom. You need to confirm that any demonstrative exhibits, including video, you intend to use will work in the space. Some courtrooms are not set up for the technology that attorneys want to use, finding out ahead of time and fixing the issues will save time and the potential embarrassment of trying to hook up things during trial and them not working.
- Be Flexible. Even if you have everything in order and you have been to the courtroom and have tested out all the exhibits; something could still not go how it should. Be ready to make adjustments and have the information and materials needed to change it at a moment's notice. Your attorney will be grateful for your fast action, and it looks great to a jury when you have handled the situation.
Communication between you and your attorneys during the entire process is key, but communication between you and the judge's staff is essential for you to prepare for the day in court.
Vicki R. Yost is a senior paralegal with the Topeka City Attorney's Office, where she focuses her efforts in civil defense litigation. She has nearly 14 years of experience in the legal field and is a Registered Paralegal through NFPA (National Federation of Paralegal Associations). Ms. Yost serves as the sole paralegal for the two litigation attorneys in the office, and assists in all aspects of trial, from start to finish. She is involved in discovery, preparing evidence, trial notebooks, and exhibits for trial, and also assists the attorneys in the courtroom during trial. Ms. Yost holds an associate’s degree in Legal Studies and a B.S. degree in Political Science from Washburn University. She is a member of the Kansas Paralegal Association, and serves as a District Director.
Institute for Paralegal Education • 1218 McCann Drive • Altoona, WI 54720 • © 2016, Institute for Paralegal Education, a division of NBI, Inc. All Rights Reserved.