Hi, I’m Eric Lanigan of Lanigan and Lanigan law firm in Winter Park, Florida. When I was asked to come in and handle a trial for some defendants but with only two weeks to prepare for trial, I had to work with the time I was allotted.
After two weeks of preparation, we went into trial and at the end of the trial, we were at a post-trial motion. The judge made the following comment in talking about things that had gone on pre-trial and I quote:
“Mr. Lanigan did a great job when he came in.
I was floored when he came in at the last minute,
floored how well he did…
just floored how well you did.”
–Post-trial statement from
Florida Circuit Court Judge
A lawyer can work 50 years and never hear more than a “thank you” from the judge for the work done. I was honored to hear that I’d done well in the eyes of the Court.
Two-Week Trial Preparation
Trial preparation for a client’s case is very important. It requires extensive time to review all the evidence, meet with clients, review depositions, decide key arguments in order to build a powerful defense. In this case there was two weeks to prepare the case.
Planning and time sound like solid tacts, and in a perfect world, these might would included along with an exact timeline, checklist of actions. But I came into a case that had been going on for a couple of years and I was literally hired several weeks before the trial.
In a situation like this, you can try, but there’s literally, no way that you have the time to go through all the minutia, all the minute little details of what went on. I couldn’t consume and absorb the documentation and pull the highlights of the case together so that I would know every aspect of the history involved in this timeframe.
I didn’t have the luxury of time to prepare how to present or defend and drill down into the trivia of the case. Which in retrospect was very much to my favor. Several key aspects about appeals cases, in which you have to sort and prioritize to get the information gathered, helped me to prepare for this trial.
Trial Preparation Requires Focus on Facts
You’ve got to quickly try to grasp the big picture and determine where the strengths in the case lie. You have to:
1. Pick your arguments
2. Be concise in those arguments
3. Get rid of the minutia
4. Get rid of the things that you recognize in an objective evaluation you’re not going to prevail on the issue
5. If you come to that conclusion then dump it. Because it only gets in the way and it only affects the credibility of your other argument
I learned a great deal in that trial and I think a great deal of the judge’s reaction was due to the limited amount of time that I had to prepare. I had no choice but to just cut through things that were marginal and go to trial on three main defenses to raise. I went to trial on those three defenses. I decided that these three points… I’m either going to win or lose on these three things. The rest can just essentially be looked at as trivia.
I hope I never have to again prepare a case for trial in less than two weeks, particularly when it’s been going on for two years. But I learned a valuable lesson there about how to cut to the chase, go with your strengths and have the where with all to drop those things that are not strong.