Helping a lawyer prepare for trial is both similar to what I had expected and nothing like it at the same time. Yes, my Outlook Calendar is peppered with “Trial Prep – Document Review” and “Question Preparation” meetings (which inevitably get moved around; other clients matters don’t go away just because we have a trial!). Yes, the paper cut count is mounting as we print and reprint and triple-print every possible Exhibit for our Exhibit Book and every relevant case for our Book of Authorities. And yes, the days have gotten longer but the task list is somehow still growing instead of shrinking.
But we also spend a lot of time drafting, receiving, reviewing and obtaining instructions on offers of settlement. I hadn’t realized how close to the start of a trial parties will continue to negotiate possible settlement – all the while, organizing evidence and preparing their arguments for trial. It’s a “double-barreled” approach that requires a lot of focus on the part of the lawyer and the client. And it’s confusing! How do you keep your head in the game and focused on being as organized and prepared as possible for trial, all the while knowing that it may all be for naught come the Sunday evening before trial? How do you concede a point for the sake of a settlement proposal, while preparing to fight that same point tooth and nail in a matter of days? How do you balance Costs considerations for the client with the true merits of a Settlement Proposal? Formal Offer or Informal? Chart or no chart? Is this a table or a chart? Why am I doing so much math?! You get the picture…
The lawyers I work for are much more capable of this balancing act than I am, and I find myself mentally raring to go to trial one day and then praying that the other side will accept our proposal the next. I’m impressed by how adaptable they are, and able to quickly change gears when necessary – all the while, attending to their many other clients.
In the end, I realize I’m exceedingly lucky to be able to help with a trial, as so few family law matters end up going to trial. Civil Procedure may prepare us law students for the Forms, the Pleadings, and how to calculate Costs but it cannot adequately prepare you for the immense work, the vast uncertainties and the utter thrill (I would imagine) of arguing your case at a Queen’s Bench trial. It’s something many students don’t get an opportunity to even observe, let alone assist with. Totally worth the paper cuts.