A basic manual system to organize materials for trial

A basic manual system to organize materials for trial

In a few days I have an administrative hearing which will only take a day or two. Witnesses will be called and exhibits introduced. The matter involves materials and events which date back two years. There are letters, e-mails and phone calls as well as legal documents covering the background. The volume of materials is not enormous, but enough to make it somewhat complicated to trace the events. There are disputes about what happened and the usual controversy you expect in any litigation matter. Keep in mind, this doesn’t involve a complicated malpractice case orproducts case and I am describingaprocess I followed to prepare for this hearing. It’s not a case where I would usesoftware management tools. What I am describing is a manual system for simple matters that I used.

The first thing I did was to collect all the materials and physically stack them in piles by year. I then organized the piles chronologically. I put the material in one large notebook arranged in chronological order using numerical dividers. There is an index with tab number and identification of the document. By looking at the index I can trace the first event through the last one and have the tab number for any document that corresponds to that date. A set of the hearing rules are also in this notebook under a divider. This notebook becomes my "resource notebook."

I use two prong notebooks from Bindertek www.bindertek.com/ which is a company whose products I use and like. I use two prong instead of three prong notebooks primarily because of the ease of opening two prong. More important, years ago I had jurors complain about the distraction of hearing me snap open and close three ring binders so I converted to these two prong which open and close easily and silently. The company sells different capacity notebooks and ones in different color. I color code my notebooks using red for trial notebooks, green for testimony notebooks and other colors for different functions.

Once I have the materials organized chronologically and in the notebook, I read the materials carefully. I will yellow high light significant entries and note anything of importance.

After that, I prepare a time line of the documents. Starting with the first event through the last. This time line creates a narrative of what happened over the last two years and gives me a big picture description of what happened. It allows me to see what is important and what is not so important.

I then decide which of the documents are significant enough to use as exhibits. I make an exhibit list of those documents noting the tab number. I then copythem. I make sure I make enough copies for everyone who should have them. The witness, the clerk, the "judge" andmy opposing counsel. I paper clip these sets and attach a note of the tab number where it is located in my set. These are arranged numerically. I can mark one set as an exhibit and hand the others out as needed while having an identification as to it’s location in my notebook. These are in an expansion folder marked "exhibits"

After that, I review the significant materials to create an outline for examination of witnesses. The outline for my witnesses has topic headings and short entries under them for subject points I want to make. The cross examination outline is created by one topic per page. For example, if qualifications are an issue that is outlined on a separate sheet from the other subjects.This allows me to decide the order of topics in cross examination by shifting the separate page of topics in the order I want them and to easily change that order as I decide. If I intend to use documents, the outline will refer to the tab number where the document is located in my notebook. I can easily find the document in my exhibit expansion folder because it is arrangednumerically by tab number.

Next, I use a second notebook as a "trial notebook." It has dividers plus a set of numerical tabs. One divider is "Examination" where I have my notes as to cross examination. Another is "Chronology" which is my outline of the events with the tab number where I’ll find any documents that correspond. I have dividers for witnesses and the outlines behind those dividers. The other dividers are labeled for materials I intend to use during the hearing so I can locate them easily.

I prefer a spiral notepad for making notes during the hearing rather then making them on a yellow pad.These are thespiral notebooks you find in store that students use. I like these better then yellow pads for ease of tabbing pages and organization. I make sure I have a supply of pens, yellow high lighters, sticky note pads and trial supplies like a small two hole punch.

This basic, manual procedure for preparation results in my having read the documents, understanding the sequence of events and organized the materials for ease of use at the hearing. I want to do this myself because it helps me grasp the information and allows me to know how it is organized so I can find it easily.

This isn’t rocket science and certainly software management is probably superior to my procedure, but for simple cases it works for me.

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