Many times, litigation comes out of the blue catching you by surprise. However, sometimes you know that a case is coming. Maybe your spouse has expressed a desire to get divorced, maybe you heard someone has accused you of a crime, maybe someone has told you they are going to sue you. Regardless of the type of case you are facing, here are ten things you can do to start on the right foot and make your future lawyer very happy.
1. Save everything: The right email, text, bank record or other document can often prove to be crucial evidence. It isn’t clear at the beginning what evidence may be essential in a case so it is important to save everything related from the outset. The opposing party may try to hide evidence once the case has started so you need to get your hands on everything you can and back it up.
2. Track dates and times: many cases revolve around establishing a timeline as part of a convincing story. If you have better knowledge of the facts and know accurately what happened and when you display that knowledge to a jury or the judge you will gain crucial credibility that a witness who is inconsistent or forgetful won’t have.
3. Don’t discuss your case with anyone: Only your spouse, your lawyer, or your mental health professional can’t testify against you. If you discuss your case with someone else before it’s done, they may be subpoenaed to testify against you.
4. Keep your finances simple: If your case involves your money, bank accounts, investments, and other financial instruments will become the subject of inquiry. Keeping your finances simple by not withdrawing from or shifting around investments will help negotiating, mediating or trying your case.
5. Don’t talk to the opposing party or police: When you begin to suspect that a case may be coming the person who is suing you may attempt to get information or concessions from you before they start their case. They may “forget” the things you say that would help you while remembering only the parts helpful to their case. If you are facing criminal charges, the opposing party is the state through their agents in law enforcement. When it comes to speaking with the police the Miranda warnings are clear “anything you say may be used AGAINST you”. Police will often structure their encounters with potential suspects to try and avoid needing to provide Miranda warnings by questioning you under false pretenses so be careful of any encounter with the police when you are suspected of a crime.
6. Research and find a lawyer: Most lawyers will be quite happy to discuss the possibility of taking your case even if no case currently exists. This way you can be prepared for the expense and get representation quickly.
7. Get an outfit for court: When dressing for court, a party needs to look respectable, put together, but not intimidating or wealthy. If I could choose my client’s clothes for a court date I would have men wear a button down in a good color for their complexion (but nothing too bright) with khaki slacks and a belt; for women I would recommend a blouse (more flexible on color than for men) and khakis.
8. Arrange transportation: Look up where you can park, a bus route, or find out who could drive you to court. Some counties have better parking than others, generally the more out of the metro you get the better the parking.
9. Resist self-help strategies: There is often temptation to go outside of the legal system when the prospect of a case is scary. In divorces, parties try to hide money away from each other, sell property of their spouse etc. and the results for the final judgement of the case can be disastrous. These self-help measures rub judges the wrong way and self-help in criminal cases can result in new charges and higher punishments.
10. Prepare for the long hall: Courts move at a much slower pace than what people would like. You should prepare for many procedural court dates before anything of substance happens. Judges and Attorneys will be mostly unsympathetic to how slow your case is going. You need to be prepared to let your attorney handle the procedural details and scheduling so that you can relax enough to handle the slow pace of court.
*This article is informational and should not be taken as legal advice for a particular case. Every case is different and some issues may not be present while other issues not discussed here may be relevant for your case*