Why You Should Use a Trial Notebook

AuthorLeonard H. Bucklin
Why You Should Use a Trial Notebook
Confidence and organization are the attributes of a winning trial lawyer. A trial note-
book will give you both.
Building Trial Notebooks is a system of organization for litigation. Its forms, divider
tabs, and guiding discussions allow you (indeed, these materials almost force you) to
prepare in an organized manner. When you get to a deposition, a mediation, or a court,
everything will be in order so that you will have purpose, drive, and power.
Today a trial notebook is not just for trial; it is a way of organizing for litigation. It has
all the basic information you need for any litigation task at hand. From the time the
client is accepted, your trial notebook shows you what you have done, what you need to
do, and when you need to do it. Your trial notebook has your materials for depositions,
deposition arrangements, settlement conferences, appearances before the motions judge,
and, of course, trial. Throughout the litigation, you will have the equivalent of a very
thick primary file folder, organized by tab divisions.
I developed the Building Trial Notebooks system for use in a busy litigation practice
that covered five states. I refined it over many years. The system has been used in plain-
tiffs’ cases that allowed me to become a member of the Million Dollar Advocates’
Forum. And the system has been used by my law firms and me in doing defense work
for more than 35 insurers and national self-insurers. The system has been battle-tested
for use in any state, and for use by either plaintiffs or defendants in litigation.
How It Works
The system will improve your success ratio and save you time. How? It keeps you
organized. Organization is power. And power wins good settlements because power
wins trials.
For example: You know what the crucial facts are and what you must do next — even
when you only have 15 minutes to jump to the file and then start talking to a witness,
the client, or the adverse attorney. At the end of the deposition, you know you did not
forget to ask a critical question. At a settlement mediation, you get the attention and
respect of the other side. At trial, after examining your own witness, you know the testi-
mony has covered the points you wanted to make. After the trial, the jurors compliment
you on being organized and knowledgeable.
A good trial notebook assists attorneys and their support staff in maintaining control
over the litigation. It assists with the evidence and rebuttal of evidence. It will move you
forward on the plan that you have prepared, and help you respond to unanticipated
issues or arguments that arise during the case.
The organizing power of a trial notebook comes to full flower at trial. Your notebook
will organize all the materials that will be presented at trial. Every exhibit and witness

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