More than 1.3 million lawyers operate in the United States today. If each of them only tried one case a year with a handful of court exhibits, that’d still be tens of millions of exhibits.
Needless to say, you want your trial exhibits to be orderly and consistent. Your exhibits represent the culmination of all your hard work. They need to be easy to find, present, and review at trial.
With that in mind, we’re going to present Exhibit A: How to Prepare Your Trial Exhibits. Lawyers and paralegals, take note.
Sorting Your Trial Exhibits
Start by making a master index of every exhibit you have. At a minimum, this should include the exhibit’s source, date, type, and a short description. We’ll cover more things you can include on internal exhibit lists in a later section.
You will want several copies of each exhibit on your trial exhibits list. For a small firm, three should prove to be enough. If you have a trial team rather than a single lawyer, you may need more.
Be ready to distribute each copy when the exhibit gets accepted.
Each item on your exhibit list for trial should include exhibit stickers. This saves the court reporter time and keeps the trial moving fast. The less prepared your team looks for trial, the worse it will look for you.
Cheat Sheets and Internal Lists Can Help
A master index in a complex case can get bloated very quickly. Consider making smaller cheat sheets that deal with the evidence that your team will present regarding a given issue.
The exhibit list for trial teams can look different from the master list. A searchable Excel file or a physical cheat sheet will allow lawyers to get at information faster.
Paralegals and lawyers should be on the same page, both literally and metaphorically. Lawyers may want extra information.
Take Care with Electronic Exhibits
As more and more court proceedings and filings move online, legal teams need to think ahead about how they’ll use trial exhibits. Example cases of electronic exhibits handled in court include social media posts and digital photographs.
You need to know what the electronic capabilities of the courtroom you’ll be using and how best to use them. Being able to seamlessly move into an exhibit makes your team look more ready for trial. Don’t leave counsel flailing at PowerPoint or Adobe Reader when it’s “go time.”
When preparing your exhibit list for trial, look for potential objections to entering those exhibits into evidence. By anticipating the moves of opposing counsel, you can make your case airtight.
At Trial, Speed is Key
Trial exhibits shouldn’t be cumbersome, awkward things. Having all your evidence listed, labeled, and ready for presentation can take a lot of work beforehand, especially in cases with hundreds or even thousands of exhibits. It’s worth the time to prepare, however.
Are you having trouble getting your head around a piece of technology you need to use in court? Try checking out our technology or tips sections for advice.