Preparing Clients for Trial
One thing that causes clients to be anxious is the unknown. Not knowing what to expect during the trial can cause significant stress. Preparing your clients for trials is more than just going over the questions with them or letting them know what types of questions the opposing counsel is going to ask. Your client should know what to expect from the time they walk into the courtroom to the time they leave the courtroom. They should understand the procedures, how testimony is taken, how their reactions and demeanor can affect the outcome and what to expect from the judge.
When preparing clients, I help them to understand the procedures from the beginning to the end. I let them know that there may be some "housekeeping" issues that the court might address - such as any outstanding motions, time constraints, order of witnesses and/or possible discovery issues. I explain the differences between direct examination, cross examination, and redirect examination. It is also important that they understand the time constraints. In Maricopa County, Arizona, we have minimal trial time for our clients. That means everything is going to happen very quickly.
l let the clients know how testimony will be taken. For instance, when they are being questioned by their lawyer, that is a direct examination. Their attorney will use this time to prove their case and get exhibits admitted into evidence. Clients should also be very familiar with exhibits in order to save time when testifying about the exhibits. I then explain cross-examination and discuss the likelihood that opposing counsel will try to buttonhole them into yes or no answers and what to do if they are not comfortable answering yes or no. I then let them know that their attorney will have an opportunity to ask questions again to help clarify and harmful testimony from the cross examination.
I also practice with them to help them learn to answer questions briefly and to the point and to ask for the questions to be rephrased if they do not understand it.
It is also very important for clients not to interrupt or become argumentative. Sometimes clients need to practice this.
It is really important for clients to understand that they will be under a microscope during the hearing. The judge or the judges staff will be watching their every move. They need to be sure to control anger and frustration. They need to be sure not to make noises in court or roll their eyes.
If you do not have enough time to properly prepare your clients, make sure you hire someone who is.