Many things are often taken for granted, especially when in familiar surroundings. With that in mind, here are a few general items to consider when preparing to go to trial in your "local" courthouse. Unless you're in trial more often than most, things may not go as expected. Forgetting even one of these could easily add a little extra panic to the recipe.
1. Scheduling – In busier venues such as Los Angeles or San Francisco, you may find that your “Trial Date” is actually when you will be assigned a Department, which can then put you in a “trailing” position for a few days or even weeks. This can make planning and scheduling a little tricky, but you should be prepared to adjust your calendar. This affects your entire trial team, including witnesses, vendors and support staff.
2. Courtroom visit – Even though you may be familiar with your local courthouse, unless you’ve been in trial recently (within a year or less) in the same exact courtroom, with the same Judge, Clerk, Bailiff and Reporter, you may be in for a surprise. You might find changes in court staff, equipment availability or preferences as to how and when you may set up. You should determine desired seating arrangements and explore options for Internet access.
3. Exhibits – You should avoid making assumptions as to how many hard-copy exhibits sets you will drag into the courtroom, or where you will store them – especially in larger matters with lots of exhibit binders. It can be helpful for parties to agree upon a joint list for the bulk of the evidence, each adding their own exhibits as needed. Check the Local Rules, but also discuss options with opposing counsel and address the issue with the Court. It can save a lot of time, frustration and money. Most courts will not appreciate a lot of duplication.
4. War Room – How “local” is local? Just because your office is downtown near the courthouse does not necessarily make it a convenient place to work from during trial or after-hours. Where will you work during lunch or in the evenings, when time is limited? Will you have a printer and scanner in the courtroom? Although a local copy service can be very helpful, the more you can handle on-site, the better. This is especially true for small, quick jobs during the court day.
5. Commuting – If long commutes are a concern, it might make sense to get a hotel near the courthouse. Eliminating 2-3 hours or more of commute time daily can be a real benefit during trial. Your trial day is not over at 4:30 – you will often find yourself preparing for witnesses late into the night and early in the morning before trial resumes. 12-hour days or longer are not uncommon in trial. A printer and scanner can be placed in a guest-room as well, even if a separate war-room is not available.