When a date is set for trial or a hearing at which your client needs to appear, don’t just pick up the phone—write your client a letter. This letter has two purposes: it informs your client of the date and it requests that he or she set up an appointment with you to prepare for giving testimony. Here are some suggestions for what to say in your letter.
First, start with the nuts and bolts information, i.e.,
Your case has been set for trial/hearing on _ _[date]_ _, at _ _[time]_ _, in Department No. _ _ _ of the Superior Court at _ _[specify, e.g., 123 Main Street, Quail Village, CA]_ _. On that date, you will need to arrive at the courthouse by _ _[time]_ _. I will meet you outside Department No. _ _ _.
Then, let your client know that he or she will likely be called to give testimony under oath at the trial or hearing.
Keep in mind that your client may feel anxious about being a witness and will likely have questions about the procedures of the trial or hearing. It’s often useful to explicitly acknowledge this in your letter: let your client know that this is completely normal and that’s why you’ll meet with him or her beforehand to help prepare for what to expect. Tell your client that you’ll review the facts and documents and go over his or her testimony. By voicing the trepidation your client may feel and offering the comfort of preparation, you’ll help him or her feel more at ease—and consequently perform better—when it’s time for the actual appearance.
Another way to make your client more comfortable is write in your letter that trial dates may be continued at the request of a party or because of an overbooked court calendar. Knowing this upfront can be helpful to your client because then he or she may not become discouraged if the trial is delayed.
Finally, include a request that your client contact your office when he or she receives your letter to set up an appointment for the trial or hearing preparation. If you don’t hear back within a few days, follow up to confirm that your letter was received and understood.
And of course, send your letter well in advance of the trial or hearing date to ensure that you’ll have enough time to do adequate preparation with your client.
For more sample language to use in status reports and notices to your clients about his or her case, turn to CEB’s California Client Communications Manual: Sample Letters and Forms, chap 5.
Other CEBblog™ posts you may find useful:
- What to Say When a Client Lets You Go
- Attorney-Client E-Communications
- Why Are Client Communications So Important?
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