Friday, January 27, 2012

Preparing For Trial

I'm just winding down a week that apexed on Wednesday with what was supposed to be the continuation of a trial where I was in the middle of my cross-examination.  Even with a trial that started back in October, it was amazing to see the various levels of preparation for the attorneys involved in the case when we appeared for the trial.

While it seems obvious to me, apparently not everyone works with their clients to have them at the height of their preparedness when a trial comes along.  Over the years I have met many attorneys who waited until the last minute to prepare their clients and find a major hole in their case on the eve of trial, with little or no time to correct it.  One of my personal favorites was the attorney who was intending on calling an accountant to testify, only to find out the day before the trial that the accountant was, in fact, no longer a licensed accountant and when the indignant attorney asked why he had not told him this up front, the accountant simply said, "because you never asked me."

For this particular trial, one of the attorneys involved is also a solo practitioner, but one who appears over-extended with all of her cases and unable to spend the appropriate amount of time on each case, or maybe it was just on the case we had together.  For months, letters and requests for documents went ignored and even attempts to get her on the telephone went unanswered.  She showed up for court with documents that she claimed were faxed to me at 2:15 a.m. that morning, only to find that at such a late hour, she must have faxed them to the wrong fax number.  I still wonder what the nursing home who received the documents must have been thinking when they received them in the middle of the night.

With paper files falling out of her briefcase and no real hold on the case or the client, one side of the courtroom looked almost comical.  On the other side, I sat with my client and our exhibits for cross-examination and our computers (my iPad, his netbook) ready to proceed.  Further down was another attorney assigned to the case and his tablet managing his files as well.

So just as we were prepared to proceed, the Court finally issued its decisions on motions that had been undecided for months, including all the requests for documents that were outstanding.  Before the Court even finished its decisions, the other attorney announced that her client was withdrawing her case and just like that, another litigation was concluded.

It's always "Murphy's Law" when you have a trial: when you are prepared, the case either settles or resolves itself some way.  When you aren't prepared, it always goes forward with a trial.

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