Going to Trial and Being Prepared
Note: This blog will assume you are being represented by an attorney as self-representation involves a great deal more preparation and most of it of a different sort.
It is time to go to court. Usually, there has been a substantial period of time prior to this event in which both you and your attorney have spent many hours researching the appropriate laws, documenting proof, and preparing strategies for taking your case before a judge. While an appeal of a final judgment is often allowed, it is expensive and time-consuming so it is best to plan to make your one day in court count as the final answer to your concerns. Since your day in court is so important it is also important foryou and your attorney be as prepared as possible. Your attorney will have his or her own agenda to follow for being prepared but you also should have an agenda. Here are some tips to help make sure you are ready for that important day.
Understanding case details
It is important to know what your case is about, how the attorney plans to approach the solution, and what state laws (each state has their own laws) apply to your particular situation. You will not have the depth of knowledge your attorney has but you need to know the basics. Go online and read your state’s statutes concerning your case. Ask your attorney to go over case details and strategies he or she plans to use. Make sure all the issues you want to be addressed are going to be a part of the attorney’s presentation. Attorneys are busy professionals and, as can happen, sometimes forget something you want to be done. It is better to fix problems before court as after the hearing it is too late. “Sorry” won’t pay the bills.
Practice your testimony
Have your attorney create a practice session to help you understand how to properly answer questions when on the witness stand. You will know ahead of time the questions your attorney may ask but you won’t know what questions opposing counsel will ask. Basically, it is best to remember to answer a question with a simple “yes” or “no” whenever possible. Judges don’t want to hear rambling details and in fact, too much information can actually have a negative effect.
Prepare mentally and emotionally
Going to court is, for most people, an almost scary experience. Often nerves are tense and, depending on the outcome, anger and/or extreme sadness may occur. Try to prepare yourself to be calm and in control of your emotions. Get a good night’s rest, eat a good breakfast, and think good thoughts prior to your court appearance. Have a friend drive you to court, wait for you (in the courtroom when allowed), and be there when it is over to take you home. It is easier to keep emotions under control when you can share with a friend.
Appearances make a big difference in a courtroom. Judges are human and will be annoyed with someone who is unkempt or dressed inappropriately. Men should wear a suit and tie if possible but at least a neat, wrinkle-free, collar shirt and slacks. And shoes should be shined as well. Women should wear a dress or skirt. the length not above the knees. If this is not possible, slacks and a blouse with a jacket would be acceptable. Shoes can have a moderate heel and jewelry should be kept to a minimum. Trying to impress a judge with fancy or alluring clothing will usually be a negative rather than a positive. And, no jeans, shorts, tank tops, or flip flops for either gender.
Be on time
In fact, be early. Judges do not look kindly when a person, who is part of the scheduled hearing, is late. Unless something major occurs such as a car accident, don’t be late for your day in court.
Going to court is never easy and the outcome is rarely all that you want it to be. You can, however, make the best of the situation by paying attention to the suggestions presented here. Remember, you have one day in court to determine the outcome of your case, so you definitely want to make the most of it.