Preparing a Client for Trial
Attorneys can often overlook the anxiety that a client may have in going to trial. They likely have never been in that situation and do not understand what takes place. Below are some tips to keep in mind in making this a good experience for your client.
1. Prior to trial, it is a good idea to talk your client through the entire process from jury selection all the way to closing arguments so they know exactly what will happen, in what sequence, and what their role will be at each step.
2. It is important that if your jurisdiction allows you to know the members of the jury pool prior to trial to trial, that you go over that list of jurors with your client to make sure there are no issues between your client and prospective jurors
3. Your client should know that jurors have nothing to do during the course of the trial but to listen and watch. Jurors are constantly watching you and your client. You and your client need to act appropriately and know that you are under that microscope at all times.
4. Your client needs to know that they cannot be talking to jurors during breaks even if they are friends with some of the prospective jurors.
5. You should go over any orders from motions in limine so that your client knows not to accidently get into a topic that has been bared by the Court.
6. You need to prepare your client’s testimony and make sure they are familiar with the areas that will be pursued in direct examination as well as the potential issues that could be raised during cross examination. It is helpful to take a trip with your client to the courthouse so they can see the courtroom and understand where they will be sitting in relation to the jury. Some jurors like to have witnesses look at them while they are testifying while others do not.
7. Clients need to understand that you have work do to during breaks. It is important that you spend time with them at the start of each break, at the beginning of the lunch break and again at the conclusion of each day so you can gather their input and suggestions but also answer their questions that they may have. Nothing can be worse than a client listening to arguments on a motion for directed verdict and hear the judge pronounce an order that is a surprise to the client. After the conclusion of the trial, it is important to “debrief” a client so that you can take them through your impressions of the trial and also allow them to vent about their own experiences. This might also include sharing with the client what individual jurors might tell you during post-trial juror interviews.
The take-away is that clients do not understand the world we live in as trial lawyers. It is important that you prepare them for the process since they will certainly be anxious as they approach the first day of trial and throughout that trial. It is also important that you make them feel part of the process by allowing them to provide input and also to answer their questions as the trial continues.