A great recent post at What About Clients? highlights a policy that will benefit most trial lawyers. Basically, no later than 60 days before trial, take a fresh look at everything. Here’s how it goes:
“[N]o more than 60 days from trial, read over and take a proverbial bath in all of the written discovery responses and–if time permits–every deposition transcript in the case. Work through the materials relatively quickly but as thoroughly as you can. In particular, do one good read of any deposition you did not take yourself. And of all written and signed discovery responses (you can skip the documents). Go back to the start of the case. Do not rely only on deposition summaries or on outlines of direct or cross examinations prepared by others. The process of “immersing yourself” in all the discovery will suggest new sub-themes, patterns, weak points and even a new fact or two in your opponent’s case that meant little to your side when it was first produced. Now discovery will take on new and instructive meanings. Having gone through that exercise, you will be steeped in the case. You’ll have knowledge that will give your examinations of witnesses credibility, authority and command.”
This alone is a great idea. But I think the review could be an even more meaningful exercise if it is informed by what you’re going to do with the evidence you find. When, for example, does it make the most sense to highlight a piece of particularly powerful evidence? I like to have copies handy of the most important jury instructions I expect will be given at trial. This way, as I’m taking a bathin the evidence, I can develop a plan where the evidence will be best presented. It also gives me a head start on how I’m going to structure my closing argument, where I take the jurors though each element of a claim or defense and show how the evidence proves or disproves a particular element. I like to think this is a great idea made even better.