Civil Litigation Legal Topics New Lawyers Practice of Law

This Is a Great Way to Organize Your Case

Early and well-thought-out organization of a case is key to getting the best result for your client, whether through summary judgment, settlement, or trial. Not sure how to set up an organizing framework or want to find a better method than your current one? Check out this example and see if it will work for you.

Start with the initial client interview to get the basis for a rough chronology of events and then develop an outline of the general categories of legal and factual issues. Many attorneys use the jury instructions to help outline the proof that will be necessary for each element of a cause of action or defense.

Here’s an example of how it works with the issues for a breach of contract cause of action:


Existence of enforceable contract


Written agreement signed 1/1/2014




Modified on 3/1/2014 in writing


Consideration for modification


Contract not illegal restraint of trade


Plaintiff performed


Defendant breached


Defendant’s breach not excused


Supplier’s strike not excused


Plaintiff took mitigation steps


Plaintiff suffered damages


Out-of-pocket mitigation expenses


Lost profits


Prejudgment interest


Attorney fees per contract

Once you’ve got your outline, you can set up a filing system to designate evidence pertaining to each element, using the corresponding numbers. For example, as you or your legal assistant summarize deposition transcripts, you can assign a number to each relevant portion of the testimony that corresponds to the issue outline. You can also assign corresponding numbers to files containing copies of important court decisions, draft jury instructions, legal research memorandums, and notes on the nature and location of evidence.

This issue outline will become the framework for organizing the law and evidence that you gather in the case. It will also be there to help as you prepare trial briefs and declarations for summary judgment or other motions as well as in an arbitration or at trial itself.

Get more of this type of practical advice on handling issues that come up right after you accept a new case in CEB’s California Civil Procedure Before Trial, chap 1.

Related CEBblog™ posts:

© The Regents of the University of California, 2017. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

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