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Big case with lots of detail? Make this one thing a part of your preparation and improve your performance every time.
Picture this: You’re in the midst of a trial and the judge begins to fire away questions at you. You know the case well, but since you don’t possess an identic memory (not many folks do) and the case may have many key aspects and authorities, you’re flustered and unable to give a quick, coherent response. For many attorneys, preparation for every case includes creating a “cheat sheet” that can provide all the information needed at a glance.
This document, which many lawyers make an important part of preparing for the physical realities of the courtroom, can mean the difference between stumbling and subsequently dropping the ball, or being able to intelligently answer any questions directed at you.
Courtroom Cheat Sheet: Instant access to information
Time is always of the essence when you’re arguing your case in court. As a great lawyer, you know this. So it only makes sense that you won’t want to have to take any extra time to access information that is pertinent to the case when asked to cite authorities or any other facts. A cheat sheet can eliminate any hesitation or need to thumb through your notes.
Keep in mind: short, sweet and to the point
While many of your documents require a lot of details and need to be presented in a certain manner, your cheat sheet is for your eyes only (and your co-attorney on the case if you have one). So it’s more important that it’s readable, well organized and is not too verbose.
When organizing it, putting facts and notes in the same order as you will present your case is highly advisable, that way you can know exactly where to look at the sheet if and when the need arises.
Simple, straightforward notes that outline pertinent facts are key. It’s also advisable to use a font that is big enough to read when you are a few feet away from your counsel table. Some attorneys use a tablet, while others prefer paper, use whatever you are most comfortable with and make sure you’ve reviewed it before walking into the courtroom.
Do it yourself or train assistants well
You’re busy, but you are also the one who is most familiar with the cases you try. So if it’s possible, you should try to be the one to create your cheat sheets for each case. Doing this also allows you to make notes using your own understandable abbreviations since you are the only one who needs to be able to understand it. However, if you find it difficult to find the time, training an assistant is a viable option. Just keep in mind that he/she needs to know the case well and be directed on what information is key and how the cheat sheet should be organized. Spending some time going over what you require and how you would like the document to look will ensure that you’re not making matters worse (having to struggle to understand someone else’s notes) when called upon or questioned.
Being prepared for your physical presence in the courtroom is as important as having a strong case and knowing exactly how you’re going to present it. By creating a cheat sheet for every case, you’ll be giving yourself an added resource of information and ensuring that you’re always on your toes.
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