March 7, 2018 – Getting ready for a trial? Now that trials seem to be disappearing, there are fewer opportunities to practice the craft. It is still important to consider every case as a case going to trial.
Whether you need merely a refresher on litigation or are new to the process, Wisconsin Trial Practice from State Bar of Wisconsin PINNACLE® is the guide for trial lawyers needing to concentrate on the things that matter, put first things first, and prepare for that trial date.
Good Preparation is Key
The authors of Chapter 1, Preparing for Trial, not only tell you how to prepare but why preparing is so important. Here are some of their reasons:
A well-prepared trial lawyer will feel more confident.
The judge and the jurors will appreciate the lawyer’s preparation and organization.
Even opposing counsel will likely be impressed by the well-prepared lawyer’s professionalism.
Judge Jane Carroll concurs in her judicial commentary to Chapter 1: “All other things being equal, judges are more likely to side with the party whose lawyer is organized, efficient, and on top of his or her case.”
Knowing which tasks to do is crucial, and so is knowing when to do them. Chapter 1 divides the pretrial-preparation period into the following stages and assigns tasks to each: 120 days, 90 days, 60 days, and 30 days before trial, and “putting it all together to take to the courthouse.”
Four months (120 days) out, you should engage in final discovery. At 90 days, marshal your evidence, including witness testimony and documents. At two months before trial, settlement might still be an option, but you should continue to plan for trial.
In the final month before the trial, your focus should be on witnesses and potential jurors. The authors even suggest specific items to put into your briefcase before leaving for the courthouse for the first day of trial.
Jurors Are an Unknown Quantity
By this stage in the litigation process (a few months before trial), you should be well-acquainted with your client, opposing counsel, the other party, and many of the witnesses. You might know the judge from earlier cases. But unless you live and work in a sparsely populated area, you likely don’t know the people with whom much of your client’s fate rests: the potential jurors.
The author of Chapter 3 of Wisconsin Trial Practice demystifies both the law and the practice of jury selection. Learn how potential jurors can legally be excused, what happens if there aren’t enough potential jurors, and sources of information about the individuals who actually plan to show up for their jury duty.
Chapter 3 treats voir dire (literally, “to speak the truth”) at length. You won’t know which truths the prospective jurors will speak to you, but you should thoroughly prepare – so you know which questions you can ask and which questions are most likely to produce answers that result in a fair and impartial but also favorable to your client jury.
Not sure whether you’re allowed to ask the potential jurors their views on or experience with insurance, claims, damages, and tort reform or whether they have religious beliefs? Chapter 3 to the rescue: it outlines the permissible and impermissible areas of inquiry. It also extensively discusses challenges for cause and peremptory challenges.
Wisconsin Trial Practice is available both in print and online via Books UnBound®, the State Bar’s interactive online library. The print book costs $179 for members and $229 for nonmembers (both plus tax and shipping).
Online access to this resource through Books UnBound costs $159 for members and $199 for nonmembers (single-user prices; call for firm pricing). Subscribers to the State Bar’s automatic supplementation service will receive future updates at a discount off the regular price.
For more information or to place an order, visit WisBar’s Marketplace, or call the State Bar at (800) 728-7788 or (608) 257-3838.