11 Steps to Preparing Your Trial Notebook

One of the most important tasks when preparing a case for trial is to prepare a trial notebook with everything you’ll need or want during trial.  Don’t create your trial notebook to impress a client, an adversary, or another lawyer in your office (although it may do so!); your notebook should reflect your personal style and the particular requirements of the case.

The following should be included in the preparation of your trial notebook:

  1. Assemble evidence and create a list to keep track of exhibits. Give numbers (if you represent the plaintiff) and letters (if you represent the defendant) to the evidence you will offer as exhibits or use as demonstrative evidence at trial. Add a description, the witness who will introduce it, and leave columns to check off whether the evidence is either admitted or offered but not admitted.
  2. Complete your trial outline. List every issue you need to prove or disprove at trial. Next to each issue write:
    • the numbers or letters of relevant physical evidence;
    • the names of relevant witnesses;
    • any relevant cases or statutes..
  3. Make a list of witnesses in order of anticipated appearance. Include a column to check off whether a subpoena has issued and has been served.
  4. Prepare a trial brief (if the judge accepts trial briefs) showing your summary of the law and the facts of the case.
    • Pro: This is helpful to alert the court to important issues and areas the judge may want to research.
    • Con: it also reveals your approach to the other side, alerting them to possible proof or evidentiary problems.
  5. Prepare a separate file for each witness (plaintiff and defense) listing the facts to which you want them to testify (either on direct or cross-examination).
  6. Include any pretrial orders that may regulate the trial’s course and prepare written objections with points and authorities to anticipated evidence issues.
  7. Prepare sample questions for jury voir dire.
  8. Prepare witness lists to present to the judge for use during voir dire. In civil cases, be sure you also prepare a brief factual statement of the case for the judge to use during voir dire.
  9. Write an outline of your opening statement and closing argument(s).
  10. Prepare sample verdict forms.
  11. Arrange to have all charts and other demonstrative evidence prepared.

For a complete list of tasks to do when preparing the trial notebook, see Effective Introduction of Evidence in California (2d ed Cal CEB 2000).  Also, check out our program Everything You Need To Know To Be Ready For Trial, available On Demand.

Related CEB blog posts:

© The Regents of the University of California, 2010. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

Share

7 Responses

  1. Excellent site, keep up the good work. I read a lot of blogs on a daily basis and for the
    most part, people lack substance but, I just wanted to make a quick comment to say I’m
    glad I found your blog. Thanks
    ===============
    Law
    Law

  2. This is great. I will follow this blog. How about addressing mediation?

  3. [...] materials may be removed from each file, or all relevant materials may be transferred into the trial notebook and the files that will actually be used in the [...]

  4. […] 11 Steps to Preparing Your Trial Notebook […]

Add your comment to the blog post

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: