How to provide trial support and logistics
January 13, 2012 10:52 AM   Subscribe

Any tips or other help on managing support and logistics for a civil trial, for someone with a lack of experience and skill in this area? (details inside)

I have recently started working as a lawyer. The case I have been working on for most of the past few months is going to trial, and I have been invited to come along. It is a big opportunity for me, not only to get a lot of good first-person observation, but also to make a good impression on the partner I am working for. I’ve really enjoyed working on this case, and I’d like to keep working for this guy, as he does exactly the type of law I want to practice. Great deal, right?

So when I was invited to come to trial, the partner warned me that I wouldn’t be doing much legal work. He wanted me to be able to get the benefit of seeing how it all goes down, but he already has a full trial team composed of individuals with loads of experience. To make room for me, he is bringing me out instead of a support person that usually comes along. Thus, most of what I’ll be doing is helping with logistics: driving people around, ordering food, running to Kinkos to copy stuff, attempting to jury-rig the printer if it jams, etc. (to clarify for those in the legal world, I’m not responsible for the paralegal work, the team includes a super talented and experienced paralegal)

I am totally down for all the grunt work, I’m glad to be included and hope I can be useful while I’m doing some great observation. Here is the only problem: I am an awful choice to be the “logistics guy.” I am disorganized, absent-minded, a crappy driver, etc. I have little experience with this role professionally, and I’m bad enough at dealing with my personal minutiae with resourcefulness and grace that all my friends know and give me a hard time about it.

What I would love is any advice, tips, etc. either from people like me who have overcome/suppressed their absent-minded-professor shtick enough to have been of some use in this capacity in the past, or from the super organized and resourceful who might be able to tell me something that hasn’t occurred to me.

I know this question is quite general and quite snowflakey, but any thoughts would be greatly appreciated.
posted by dredge to Work & Money (4 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
If you are absent-minded (or not), always carry a pad of paper and pen around to carefully write down instructions when they are given to you. Can't help you with the crappy driving, but get your car cleaned if you are driving your colleagues around.
posted by murrey at 11:34 AM on January 13, 2012 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Make lists. Think ahead. Create an hour-by-hour calendar of each trial prep and trial day and visualize going through that day. Everything takes 1.5x as long for you to do as you think, so plan to start things (e.g. lunch) earlier than you think you should. Drive down to the courthouse today and walk from the courtroom to the cafeteria or to the restaurant you will be at to time it out. If you're lunching at a restaurant, talk to the hostess about setting up a standing reservation for a table during those days and ask everyone what their order is that morning, then call it in to the restaurant so there is no waiting around for food prep. Be ten minutes early to everything. Write everything down in the one notebook you always keep on your body with your name and phone number on the cover and draw a checkbox next to each task which you check off after you complete it. Make a cheat sheet of every human involved in the trial (judge, clerk, opposing counsel, witnesses) with their contact information and photograph (if it's online, which they mostly are). Know the courtroom's rules. If cell phones are not allowed, find out where the payphone is, bring quarters, and write down the contact info you usually store in your cell phone in your notebook that you never remove from your hand or pocket.

Most important: "he is bringing me out instead of a support person that usually comes along." There's a support person who has experience helping your boss with this? Call that person and ask them every question you can about what they do and how best to do it, especially about whether your boss likes things done a certain way. Put that person on your speed dial.
posted by prefpara at 11:36 AM on January 13, 2012 [5 favorites]

Colour code everything, if you can: keep different types of documents in different coloured binders. Have the boxes they're in clearly labelled, and also colour-coded if possible. NEVER assume that a scheduled day of evidence will go in as anticipated: bring everything you expect to need as well as the things you don't expect to need. All it takes is one witness being unavailable, and you've moved on to a whole new set of documents needed. It's a pain to have to lug it around but better than having the judge stand things down while you go retrieve a box from the office.

Bring extra EVERY thing. In my last trial, we unexpectedly needed staplers, highlighters, even a hammer and nails for a largescale diagram exhibit.

Try to anticipate your boss' needs and make his life a little easier. If the courthouse requires a keycard to get into the barrister's lounge, arrange it ahead of time so he's not changing into robes in the bathroom. Bring a lock for the lockers so you can store your streetclothes safely and not pack them everywhere.

Definitely, as prefpara says, block things out visually for yourself, hour by hour, so that you have an at-a-glance idea of what's coming up. Your other team members will find it useful as well. In each block note down the expected witnesses/voir dire argument/etc. as well as an alternate in case that goes awry.

Good luck!
posted by Pomo at 12:27 PM on January 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Talk to the person who would normally do the job and find out what they take. Some ideas from my "assistant/gopher/general dogs body jobs on films and photo shoots during my misspent youth.

Carry a pad and pen, write EVERYTHING down do not trust your memory. Make the pad smallish like the old fashioned shorthand note books.

I used to have in a small backpack, but these would all fit in a smart messenger bag or similar as appropriate for your setting.

A small first aid kit, would fit in an altoid tin with a few bandaids, acetaminophen, ibuprofen, tums, allergy tabs and the like in clearly mark the outside.

Another small tin have some safety pins, glue (gorilla style), small roll of duct tape, things like that. Carry a small pocket knife.

Make a small stationery kit with spare pens, pencils, printer cartridges, staplers etc and anything else they might need carry that in your bag.

Find out how they have their coffee or fav bev. the first day, write it down and never ask them how they have it again.

Find out where the nearest Kinkos, coffee shop, restaurants etc are near the courthouse print out directions or have them in your phone or do some dry runs in your car so you can suss out parking etc and feel more confident about driving the routes. Assume at all times that your phone will stop working or you won't be able to use it when you need it and keep hard copies of everything. Make sure your phone is fully charged every night.

Clean out your car inside and out, make sure it doesn't smell. Get a GPS or make sure you know how to work the one on your phone well.

Write everything down, is probably the best tip I can give you. if they ask you do to something and you've forgotten but you know you have it in your notebook someplace you can calmly say certainly, then run to the loos and flip through your book like made trying to find the info, or if you have a smart phone google fu your brains out. Be like a duck, calm on the surface and paddling like mad underneath, you just don't have to let them see the paddling.
posted by wwax at 12:35 PM on January 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

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