Many trials only last for a few days at most. But it can take lawyers weeks, months, and sometimes even years to prepare for trials accordingly.
While lawyers are getting ready for trials to start, they have to come up with both their opening statements and their closing arguments. They also have to generate lists of questions that they want to ask witnesses. And of course, they need to put together exhibits and create an index that includes a complete exhibit list.
Preparing exhibits for trial and incorporating them into an exhibit index can be one of the most challenging aspects of the entire trial planning process. It can take up a lot of a lawyer’s time if they’re not sure how to go about creating trial exhibits.
Today, we’re going to walk you through how to properly prepare and present file exhibits in court. See how it’s done below and make sure you take each of these steps.
Figure Out How Many Exhibits You’ll Plan to Use During a Trial
When people think about the exhibits that are used during a trial, “Exhibit A,” “Exhibit B,” and “Exhibit C” might be what comes to mind. But it’s worth pointing out that there are usually way more than just three exhibits used during the average trial.
In fact, it’s not uncommon at all for there to be dozens and sometimes even hundreds of exhibits that lawyers use throughout the course of trials. It’s why you’ll need to kick things off by figuring out how many exhibits you plan to use during a trial.
You don’t necessarily need to use hundreds of exhibits just because. But you should try to find as many useful exhibits as you can. They can include things like:
- Text messages
- Audio/video clips
- Physical objects
- And more!
It’ll be important for you to gather together all your exhibits in one place. It’ll make creating an exhibit index so much easier than it would be otherwise.
Mark Each and Every One of Your Trial Exhibits With Stickers
Once you’ve collected a bunch of exhibits that you plan to use during a trial, labeling them all will be of the utmost importance. It’s very easy to lose track of exhibits in court when they’re not labeled properly. You might have a tough time finding them and look unprepared when this is the case.
Fortunately, there are stickers that are specifically designed to be placed right onto exhibits for trial. You can stick them onto file exhibits in court or, better yet, do it long before you head to court so that it’s easy to identify them. You’ll be able to keep your story straight when you have exhibits that are clearly labeled.
Be Sure You Don’t Forget About Any Electronic Exhibits
In this day and age, it’s not uncommon at all for lawyers to use electronic exhibits during a trial. You’re more than welcome to do this, but you should try to print out physical copies of any electronic exhibits that you plan on using.
This way, you won’t have to worry about an opposing lawyer objecting to you using your electronic exhibits. You should still present your electronic exhibits in their digital forms, but you should have them in their physical forms, too, just in case.
You should also be sure that you label your electronic exhibits just like you do your physical ones. The last thing that you want to do is forget to include these exhibits in your exhibit index because they weren’t ever printed out and labeled.
Obtain the Supplies You’ll Need to Create an Exhibit Index
When you reach this point in the trial preparation process, you should have all of the exhibits that you’re going to use in court in front of you. You should also have them all labeled.
From there, you’ll need to get to work on creating an exhibit index. An exhibit index is, as its name would suggest, an index that lists each and every exhibit that you’re potentially going to use in court. An exhibit must be in this index for a lawyer to put it to good use.
To create an exhibit index, you’ll need a wide range of supplies. Visit Legalsupply.com to get all of them so that you can start to piece together an exhibit index.
Put Together a Comprehensive Exhibit Index for Your Various Exhibits
Piecing together an exhibit index can be a daunting task since there is so much information that will need to be included in it. But it’ll be imperative that you take the time to do it and, more importantly, to do it in an organized fashion so that your exhibit index is easy to read.
You can do this by creating individual listings for each of the exhibits in your exhibit index. These listings should include:
- The author/source for an exhibit
- The date connected to the exhibit
- The type of exhibit that you have
- A short description that reveals what an exhibit is
If you don’t have that many exhibits for trial, creating a comprehensive exhibit index won’t be too difficult to do. But if there are hundreds of exhibits that you’re going to use for a big trial, it’ll be a much different story. You might have to spend weeks creating an exhibit index from scratch.
Make Enough Copies of Your Exhibit Index
In some cases, lawyers will make the decision to make copies of an exhibit index so that they can hand it out to others. They’ll give it to the lawyers representing both sides in a trial, and they’ll also submit a copy of their exhibit index to the court as evidence.
You should check in with the court that will be hosting your trial to see how many copies of an exhibit index you should plan to bring along with you. You’ll want to make sure that you have enough supplies to create the necessary number of exhibit indexes.
Use Your Exhibit Index to Create a Cheat Sheet for a Trial
Creating an exhibit index for all the exhibits that you plan to present at a trial can be exhausting at times. You’ll sometimes wonder why in the world you’re taking so much time to do it.
But once you’re finished with an exhibit index, it’ll instantly turn into an invaluable tool for you and the rest of your legal team. You can actually take your exhibit index and use it to create a cheat sheet that you can then use during a trial.
This cheat sheet will let you list all of the different issues that you would like to present in court and the exhibits that you’ll need to present along with them. You don’t ever want to use a cheat sheet in place of an actual exhibit index. But it’ll be so much easier to consult a cheat sheet versus flipping through an exhibit index on a whim.
Get to Know Your Exhibits and Your Exhibit Index Inside and Out Prior to a Trial
Another thing that you’ll appreciate about the exhibit index that you create for a trial is that it’ll give you an opportunity to get to know all of the exhibits that’ll be used for a trial inside and out. While you’re generating an exhibit index, you’ll spend a ton of time examining exhibits and figuring out how you can use them to your advantage in court.
You’ll begin to become so familiar with your exhibits that you’ll start to see them in a whole new light. This will enable you to make the most of these exhibits while you’re stating your case in court.
You can also brush up on a particular case at the last minute by skimming through an exhibit index. It’ll put you into the right frame of mind as you set out to try to claim a victory in court at the end of a trial.
These Tips Should Help You Use Exhibits for Trial More Effectively
The exhibits that you present in court during a trial could ultimately make or break the case that you’re working on. So you shouldn’t be shy about turning over every stone in an effort to find as many useful exhibits as you can.
You also shouldn’t be afraid to go above and beyond when creating an exhibit index. As you’ve seen here, this exhibit index will prove to be an invaluable tool both when you’re preparing for a trial and when you’re in the midst of it.
Would you like to read some other legal articles that will provide you with tips for representing your clients to the best of your ability? Find them by browsing through the rest of our blog.