Trials are stressful, even for experienced lawyers. It can be easy to get flustered and forget an important point. The best way to combat stress and stage fright is to be organized. That way, even if you forget what you were talking about, you can look down at your plan and see what you need to do next.
A common way to stay organized is to create a trial binder (it doesn’t have to be a binder, it could be a folder! But a binder is a good way to keep all your documents together, especially for more complicated cases). A trial binder is basically a binder organized with all the documents, caselaw, and questions you want to go through at trial. In your binder you may want to include:
- A table of contents
- An outline of important events in chronological order
- The witness list
- Checklists of important points you need to cover
- Questions for each witness
- Documents you will present as evidence
- Your opening and closing statements
- Caselaw to support your closing arguments (see Legal Research)
There are lots of ways to organize your binder. It is important you find a way that makes sense to you. One way is to organize document evidence by witness - as in, keep a copy of the document you want to introduce through a witness in the same tab as your questions for that witness. Keep a checklist for each witness and check off that you have asked them about important points, and have introduced the correct documents as you go. Use tabs, sticky notes, and highlighters to help you find your way through.
Going through a court case can be very stressful. This is especially true for people that represent themselves and have no lawyer. At times it is frustrating and can get emotional. It is vital that you take care of yourself throughout the court process and especially leading up to your trial date.
Tips for Managing the Stress of a Court Case:
- It’s not about revenge: Remind yourself what is important to you. Revisit your goals. Try not to get caught up in the battle mentality of court
- Stay calm: Don’t let your emotions control you. Take time to step away and not think about the case. Take deep breaths or write notes on your page to remind yourself to relax
- Have support: Have someone you can talk to about the case to help you prepare. Bring someone you trust to court with you. They can’t talk to you while court is in session but during breaks and lunch they can encourage you
- Believe in yourself: Tell yourself you can do it. You’ve worked hard to get here. Be confident
- Fuel your body: Make sure to eat something nutritious for breakfast
- Rest: Get a good night sleep before trial. It’ll benefit you more to be well rested than to stay up preparing the night before
- Stretch: There will be an opportunity to walk around during the court’s morning break, lunch break and afternoon break. Make sure you stretch out your legs at this time
- Breathe: Take deep quiet breaths to help you stay calm and focused
- Be Professional: Stay collected and calm