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7 Reasons It's Okay to Procrastinate on Your Trial Preparation

Ken Lopez
By: Ken Lopez

Trial Consultants, Litigation Graphics, Trial Presentation, Jury Consulting, Mock Trial, Litigation Consulting, Trial Preparation, Storytelling

trial prep litigation procrastination trial lawyers procrastinateby Ken Lopez
A2L Consulting

Don't get me wrong. I'm not suggesting procrastination is a good idea. Rather, I just want you to know that even if you do procrastinate on trial preparation, things will probably work out okay.

Why? Because we have spent 18 years designing a company around managing fire drills - and there are other companies like ours with the same mentality. Yes, we all are the firemen and firewomen, indeed the smokejumpers of the litigation support world. We're routinely being called in to fight a fire that blew up unexpectedly, to put out one that looked like it was being doused, or even to fight one that got much larger than anyone ever anticipated.

Sometimes, life's realities get in the way of good planning. It might be another client. It might be a holiday. It might be that the client is in denial about going to trial. We see all of these a lot. While not great excuses, they are understandable.

Fortunately, we at A2L and other firms like A2L have been doing litigation support work for a long time. We have seen it all when it comes to trial preparation. Mock trials are run a few days before trial. Litigation graphics are prepared at the 11th hour and the use of a trial technician is only approved a day before she is needed in another city.

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It's not great when things go this way. I'm pretty sure the client is hurt in the end, but I'm not saying it's malpractice either. After all, more often than not, the client is at fault in some way, and it is usually about budget.

The great law firms won't stand for this behavior from their clients. They'll fund and execute trial preparation themselves when the client is dragging his feet. However, not every lawyer has the chutzpah to work with (or around) their client this way.

Although we still hope that you will practice extensively, plan for a great presentation using a 30:1 preparation ratio, develop a one-year trial prep calendar, and not make avoidable trial preparation mistakes, here are seven reasons that you can STILL procrastinate and we'll make sure it works out anyway.

  1. We're used to it. It is not uncommon for someone to call us and say they have a case with $100 million at stake and it's going to trial in less than a month. This used to happen more often than not. However these days, it is happening less and less. Trial lawyers have come to accept that the level of preparation expected of them is much greater than it was five years ago and hardly resembles what was acceptable 20 years ago.
  2. We have built our systems to spin up quickly. Rushing does not equal efficiency. However, we have built staffing and technology systems that allow us to expand and contract very quickly. We, and other firms like ours, can do this on-site or off-site.
  3. We use a variable staffing model. People often ask me how large our firm is, and my answer is usually that I don't know today. We have spent the last several years building a flexible system that can go up or down 30 or 40 employees in a week or two. This just-in-time system is brilliant if you think about it. It keeps costs down for our clients, and it avoids the problem that plagues many firms where people sit on the sidelines waiting for something to happen.
  4. We build stories for a living - often at the last minute. This morning, our team was discussing a case that is on the eve of trial but has no story built out yet. Like a lot of cases, it arrives on our doorstep as a chronology. There is no story, no meaning and nobody would care what happened really. Our opposition, however, has a simple to understand emotional story. So, in a week or so we will build out a truly compelling story for our side. We do this routinely.
  5. Let us sweat the small stuff. Since you now have to rush and get your case ready for trial, we can take on the challenges of preparing the trial database and being ready to present any document on a moment's notice. We can handle courtroom logistics as well and make sure all of the electronics are set up perfectly. That is what our trial technicians do every day.
  6. We can help you practice. We have systems to do small scale and rapid testing of a case. Sometimes we conduct a Micro-Mock exercise. Sometimes we conduct a full mock exercise but use the jury consultants to present the case (thus freeing up counsel from preparing for a mock and a trial) to the mock jury.
  7. We are professional simplifiers. If you go to trial often, you have certainly found that the simpler you make your case, the better your results. It's true for many reasons, but making a case simple for judge or jury takes a very long time. Fortunately, we litigation consultants know how to do this faster than anyone. Indeed, it may be the most valuable thing we do.

The more time we have, the better the result - always. However, when you are up against the wall for whatever reason, please be aware that our firm and many firms like ours know how to jump into battle instantly.

Other A2L Consulting articles related to trial preparation best-practices:

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