Civil Litigation Litigation Strategy Pretrial Matters Trial Strategy

Timeline to Trial

Wedding planners always suggest creating a timeline of tasks to accomplish as the big day approaches. Breaking down tasks and assigning them a priority in the buildup to the wedding is both efficient and stress-reducing. Getting to trial can be as hard as getting to the altar, with just as many moving parts to juggle. Here’s a handy timeline of pre-trial tasks that will get you to opening argument with your sanity.

100 Days before Trial Begins

  1. Do penultimate discovery, including wrapping up admissions and requesting witnesses and documents. (Last hearing on discovery motions 15 days before trial, Cal Rules of Ct 333.)
  2. Consider filing a summary judgment motion.
  3. Obtain stipulations.
  4. Request to inspect originals and surrounding files on site.

75 Days before Trial Begins

  1. Conduct final discovery. Get witness list (including all experts and qualifications (CCP §2037)), obtain maps, charts, diagrams, models, and illustrations.

60 Days before Trial Begins

  1. Subpoena all witnesses, friendly and unfriendly. Include memo to friendly witnesses.
  2. Send notices to produce parties and documents.

30 Days before Trial Begins

  1. Prepare settlement conference statement; advise client to attend settlement conference.
  2. Provide friendly witnesses with a copy of their deposition.
  3. Excerpt relevant interrogatories and admissions.
  4. Prepare demonstrative aids.
  5. Obtain stipulation or file motion for permission to file interrogatories, depositions, or admissions after pretrial conference.
  6. Prepare request for judicial notice.
  7. Prepare trial brief.
  8. Consider making CCP §998 offer to compromise.

15 Days before Trial Begins

  1. Prepare for jury, including preparing voir dire, jury instructions, and form of verdict (including special interrogatories for jury).
  2. Prepare subpoenas in blank for courtroom use.
  3. Pre-number exhibits.
  4. Prepare trial memoranda.
  5. Prepare CCP §170.6 motion to disqualify the trial judge; determine judge availability and biases.
  6. Make extra copies of depositions and documentary exhibits.
  7. Prepare exhibit list and index.
  8. Prepare summary of damages.
  9. Prepare copies of depositions, interrogatories, admissions, for potential filing with court.

5 Days before Trial Begins

  1. Prepare individual witnesses, including cross-examination of key witnesses.
  2. Arrange for courtroom aids: audiovisual projector, podium, and other equipment.
  3. Determine courtroom availability; schedule witnesses.
  4. Outline voir dire and opening statement.
  5. Verify that there are sufficient copies of exhibits.
  6. Verify filing of depositions, interrogatories, admissions.
  7. Arrange weekend office help, e.g., copying, typing.


  1. Turn over trial brief, witness list, and jury instructions to judge.
  2. Give premarked exhibits to clerk and check with clerk for system.
  3. Provide depositions, interrogatories, and admissions to the trial court for filing.
  4. Verify presence of courtroom aids.
  5. Look up biography of trial court.
  6. Determine Benchbook used by trial court and acquire it.

CEB books and Action Guides have got you covered for any of the issues that will arise in this timeline to trial: For help on any pre-trial discovery issues, go to CEB’s California Civil Discovery Practice; on preparing the opening statement, turn to CEB’s Persuasive Opening Statements and Closing Arguments; organizing trial-related documents is covered in California Trial Practice: Civil Procedure During Trial, chap 3 and Preparing for Trial (Action Guide).

© The Regents of the University of California, 2011. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

13 replies on “Timeline to Trial”

As a forensic document examiner and expert witness, I prefer that the original documents in question be obtained as soon as they are available. An examination of copies is fine for a preliminary exam. I suggest starting with the originals, if possible and save the client some expert analysis fees.

I am going to print this out to show clients what it really takes to go to trial, and to demonstrate all the prep work that is really needed. I didn’t really see anything about writing the closing argument. For me, I start writing the closing argument in my head at the first consultation, and am constantly working on it until the case is over. And this is usually when I am driving or supposed to focusing on something else. It is kind of hard to bill for this, but it is an important part.
Thanks for sharing this good post.

“It takes as much energy to wish as it does to plan.” Eleanor Roosevelt

Great post. Love the timeline, love the blog . . .

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