When I was a young lawyer in the small town of Mount Vernon, Washington I would sometimes fly to places for legal work as the quickest way to get there. Just outside town there was a narrow dirt air strip right along a standing field of corn on one side and a drainage canal on the other. The local pilot who flew the farms for spraying the fields had his planes there and one was a small two seater he would fly me in. He had been flying for over 30 years and had flown hundreds of hours. Never the less, every time I flew with him, he would get out a clipboard with a checklist and walk around the plane with it. He would methodically go through it out loud even though I was the only one with him. He would even open the window on his side before we started out and shout out “Prop On!” before firing up the engine. The only thing close to us would be cows crazing a long ways away. I was struck how much importance he put on a checklist for some thing he had done hundreds of times. I decided that in my law practice I would create a checklist for every thing we did. Every time we did something new I made a checklist. I modified them as we used them, but they were given to all the paralegals and we followed them together. Here is an example of an early checklist I created when I was really trying simple cases alone but always with a paralegal with me. It will give you an idea of the concept. Of course, this is really simplistic but it gives the general idea. TRIAL PARALEGAL CHECKLIST Arrangements need to be made to transfer the client files and exhibits needed for trial to the courtroom. The computer, projector and electronics are also to be set up for trial. The general outline for responsibilities during trial follow: MORNING
- ARRIVE AT COURT AT SAME TIME LAWYERS ARRIVE
- ASK ATTORNEY FOR INSTRUCTIONS WHEN YOU ARRIVE
- REVIEW WITNESS LIST FOR WITNESSES TO BE CALLED
- MAKE SURE WITNESSES ARE THERE & READY TO TESTIFY
- HAVE ALL OF THE WITNESS MATERIAL READY FOR THE ATTORNEY. THIS INCLUDES DEPOSITIONS, EXHIBITS AND MATERIALS.
- BE PREPARED TO GIVE THE LAWYER THE MATERIALS DURING THE EXAMINATION
- HAVE BOXES & TRIAL MATERIALS ORGANIZED FOR EASY LOCATION AS NEEDED.
- BE OBSERVANT FOR ANYTHING NEEDED BY LAWYERS
- BE RESPONSIBLE FOR WITNESSES WAITING TO TESTIFY
- NOTE OBSERVATIONS REGARDING JUDGE, JURY, WITNESSES & COURT IN GENERAL. DON’T PASS NOTES TO ATTORNEY
- CHECK WITH LAWYER FOR PROJECTS
- SHARE ANY OBSERVATIONS OR MESSAGES
- REPORT ON WITNESS STATUS
- BE PREPARED TO GET FOOD FOR LAWYERS OR WITNESSES IF ASKED.
- REVIEW OBSERVATIONS WITH LAWYER & SHADOW JUROR COMMENTS.
- ADVISE REGARDING STATUS OF NEXT WITNESS
- REVIEW ANY MESSAGES FROM OFFICE OR OTHER NOTES
- ASK LAWYER IF ANYTHING IS NEEDED
- CHECK ON WITNESSES FOR AFTERNOON
- ASK IF LAWYERS NEED ANYTHING
- SHARE OBSERVATIONS OR MESSAGES
- REPORT ON WITNESS STATUS – ENSURE WITNESSES READY
- ADVISE SCHEDULING PARALEGAL OF TRIAL STATUS
END OF DAY
- REVIEW WITNESS STATUS AND SCHEDULE FOR NEXT DAY
- FIND OUT WHAT PROJECTS LAWYER HAS FOR YOU
- ADVISE WITNESS PARALEGAL OF STATUS.
- HAVE WITNESS MATERIAL AVAILABLE FOR LAWER
- GIVE REPORT FROM SHADOW JURORS AND OBSERVATIONS
- GET INSTRUCTIONS FOR FOLLOWING DAY.