Court Prep Timeline:
Client Responsibilities for Upcoming Court Date w/ Judge
2-3 Weeks Prior:
Send attorney evidence and documents
-When prepping for court, it’s important to ensure that your attorney has all significant information pertaining to the case. Supporting evidence is crucial for ensuring your case has a fair chance in court. All evidence and documents serve as a paper trail of any claims your attorney will make on your behalf. Relevant documents could include text messages, doctor’s notes, school records, videos, and police records. It’s important to remember that not everything is admissible in court, especially if the proper chain of custody for certifying information is not followed. If you have any questions about what information is admissible, feel free to ask the attorney what they might need from you for your specific case. For cases involving financial information, be sure to provide your attorney with W2s, tax returns, your last six paystubs, and bank records.
Ask friends, family, and support system to come and sit in on court date
-Going to court can be a nerve-wrecking experience, especially when you are unable to bring your connection to the outside world—your phone—into the courthouse. To make the experience less harrowing, consider inviting friends, family, or anyone you consider within your support system. Some courts may not always have enough room on the docket to support extra friends or family in the courtroom, but most of the time there is enough room. Having familiar faces around can help to soothe the experience and prevent you from having to bear the anxiety alone.
1-2 Weeks Prior:
Review attorney prep, such as having outline, proposed judgement/order, witness and exhibit list
Only the client has all of the information that an attorney may need to raise the attorney’s chances of success. After providing your attorney with all the information they need, feel free to ask questions about how the process is going. This includes questions about how the attorney plans to prepare for court and whether they plan to use an outline, write a settlement letter to the opposing counsel, or type up a lengthy memorandum to the court. Since an attorney’s main concern is getting the outcome their client desires the most, clients are welcome to ask about any of these processes to stay involved during the duration of the case. Since only the client knows what can bring them peace of mind, staying in constant communication with the attorney will only help the attorney to ensure they are creating the desired outcome.
1 Day Prior:
Plan outfit-dress business casual
-Appearances are important in court settings. Consider prepping a few outfits for court a few days beforehand. Although attire does not have to be excessively dressed up, the difference between a client who at least tried and one who did not can play a significant role in how the court might view the client. When thinking of appropriate outfits, consider the typical nine to five work outfit one might wear to an office job. For women, maybe a dressy blouse and jeans with minimal makeup. For men, a full suit is not required, and is in fact not encouraged to avoid the client outdressing the attorney. Work attire is also appropriate, especially since it shows that the client is employed; scrubs and any other uniforms can all be considered when thinking of possible outfit ideas.
Call attorney to discuss last minute anxieties and concerns
-Experiencing anxiety before a court case is completely normal. Rest assured, the attorney is probably just as anxious as you are. Feel free to call your attorney with any last minute concerns or anxieties; they may be able to answer or reassure you about any questions you may have. Additionally, calling your attorney the night before might jog their memory if they have something they want to discuss or remind the client of prior to meeting the next day for court. Remember, clients and attorneys work together as a team to create the best outcome, so staying involved up until the last moment before the case is never a bad idea.
30 Minutes Prior:
Drive to courthouse, leave cell phone and smart watch in vehicle
-Any items which could potentially record are not allowed in the courthouse. This is for both your safety, and the safety of all other clients and attorneys going to trial that day. To prevent having to walk back to the car after arriving inside the courthouse with your cellphone, leave your cellphone, camera, and smartwatch in the car beforehand.
Secure parking for the whole day
-Court trials never last a set amount of time. For one less thing to worry about, consider securing parking for the entirety of the day. With waiting times between trials, plus the actual length of your trial, there’s no telling how long you’ll be at the courthouse. As an added bonus, if you secure parking for the whole day and later need a quick breather during the day, you can use the excuse that you are going downstairs to feed the meter if you really just need some fresh air.
Discuss procedure (pretrial v. straight to testimony) with attorney
-When discussing possible methods and outcomes with your attorney, ask them about a pretrial versus going directly to trial. In a pretrial, the attorney and judge will meet privately to discuss hypothetical facts and evidence. The judge can approve certain conditions, especially in custody cases where it is apparent that the other party may not be the safest option for a child after a conversation with the attorney. The pretrial can eliminate the need for lengthy trials and witness conjectures. However, going to trial can also be a great option for these same reasons, as it allows for a more in depth understanding of the case from all points of view.
Sit with supportive friend, family, coach and stay present
Win or lose, the results of your trial can be much better received with family or a friend present.