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Preparation is key when it comes to any trial
If you are preparing for a civil case in court, there are things you should know to have a successful outcome. We’ve prepared this guide to help you navigate this important legal proceeding.
What is a civil case?
It might be useful to define what a civil court case is and what it involves. According to USCourts.gov, a civil case, “Involves a legal dispute between two or more parties. A civil action begins when a party to a dispute files a complaint.” The plaintiff (the person who brings the suit) can file for damages or money to compensate for harm caused by the defendant. The plaintiff may also ask for an injunction to keep the defendant from doing something.
There are four basic types of civil cases:
- Tort claims – A wrongful act that results in an injury, property damage or damage to a person’s reputation
- Breach of contract claims – One person fails to live up to the terms of a contract
- Equitable claims – Asking the court to take some action or stop some action
- Landlord/Tenant issues
On the other hand, a criminal case involves the breaking of a law. In this instance, the government prosecutes an individual for violating the law.
Here are 5 steps to prepare for a civil case
Step 1: Read the complaint
Whether or not you were the one who filed the suit, start preparing by reading the complaint. This is the document the judge will be reading. The purpose of this read-through is to determine how you will prove (if you are the plaintiff) or disprove (if you are the defendant) the allegations spelled out in the complaint.
You need to determine:
- What evidence you will need to prove/disprove the statements
- If anything relevant has happened since the original incident. For example, has a debt been paid, was there a mediation or have there been additional damages?
- If any key elements are missing from the complaint
Step 2: Gather your evidence
Whether you filed the complaint or not, you will have to gather evidence to prove your case.
Evidence can include:
- Copies of legal contracts
- Written and/or digital communications (emails, texts etc.)
- Records of payments or evidence of non-payment
According to PeoplesLaw.org, “If you have a contract, read it…The judge will expect both parties to be familiar with the contract. There are certain legal elements that must be proved if your goal is to enforce your contract. If you wish to show that the contract is not valid, you must explain why (disproving the same elements).”
Step 3: Analyze the case and decide what you need to prove/disprove
What you really want to do is analyze your strengths and weaknesses. Then determine how to play to your strengths or defend your weaknesses. Review the elements that must be proven and decide what evidence you can present that will prove/disprove those elements.
Step 4: Prepare documentation and your witnesses
This is actually a multi-step process:
- Identify and prepare evidence and physical documentation you plan to present in court.
- Make copies of everything for the opposing side and the judge.
- Keep all of your documentation organized so you can find everything when you need it.
- Highlight important points you plan to present to prove your case.
- Identify and prepare your witnesses. Make sure witnesses can support your key points and that they have firsthand knowledge of the situation. Also, make sure any “experts” are truly qualified to give opinions or judgments in this matter.
Step 5: Practice your presentation…and then practice again
You will be much more relaxed – and much more likely to remember your key points – if you practice beforehand. Going before a judge and in front of witnesses can make anyone nervous, especially if you’ve never been involved in a court case before. It’s also okay to make notes with your key points. It doesn’t have to be a full script. You can use bullet points, the first few sentences, or anything that will jog your memory and ensure you don’t forget a point that is crucial to your case.
Preparing for a civil case takes time and effort. Follow these five steps to help you present the best case possible to help ensure the outcome you want.
At Boss Certified Realtime Reporting, we’ve been providing nationwide court reporting services for trials, depositions, mediations and more since 1995. If you’d like help or more information, you can call us at 954 467 6867 or complete our contact form to let us know how we can assist you.
Don’t let your clothes speak louder than you
There are certain professions that are synonymous with clothing. When you think about police, you probably imagine men (and women) in blue. Doctors are usually associated with white coats. But what about lawyers?
Though they don’t have uniforms per se, lawyers do have an unwritten dress code they should adhere to. And while they can wear what they like in their own offices, it’s important that they peruse their closets carefully before attending any legal proceeding and keep these five tips in mind:
Fit is important
You definitely don’t want to wear clothing that is too loose or too tight. If you will be presenting in front of a judge or jury, you’ll want to make sure you’ll be able to move around easily. If you typically buy clothes off the rack, you should think about having them tailored to fit you better.
Don’t get too comfortable
We live in an increasingly casual world. Once upon a time people would dress up before taking a flight, and now sweats and yoga pants are the norm. But anything involving the law is still extremely conservative. There’s no such thing as casual Fridays in a courtroom, so business attire should be worn at all times.
Cut out the distractions
A little bit of color can be good, but too much could just be a big distraction. The same is true for expensive accessories like purses and watches. Noise also plays a role in court, so it’s a good idea to avoid shoes with loud clacking heals or bracelets that jangle.
Keep your wardrobe updated
If you’re still wearing the same clothes you wore a decade or two ago, it is probably time to go shopping. First of all, styles change, so it’s possible you’re looking out-dated. Plus, unless you are a fitness hound, you’ve probably put on a few pounds over the years, which means those clothes aren’t fitting as well as they once did.
Be careful with how much you show
While all of the above tips apply for any lawyer, this one is mostly for the ladies. Unfortunately, because women have a tougher time establishing themselves in various fields – law included – they generally have to be more cognizant of the things they do than their male counterparts. And when in court, this means avoiding cleavage or anything that could reveal underclothing.
If you have any doubt about what to wear, there’s a simple exercise you can do: Think about how your clients would want you to dress. Or, even better, as Gary J. Ross explains, it’s always important to dress like a lawyer because you never know when you may get a client.
At Boss Reporting, we always aim to give lawyers tidbits like these to help them in their careers. This is why we have been providing court reporting services for over 20 years. To let us know what we can do for you, give us a call at 954-467-6867 or send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.