Nexsen Pruet member (partner) Marcus A. Manos recently conducted a refresher for paralegals at the firm.  Entitled "A Primer (Reminder) for Lead (and other) Paralegals," Manos took veterans and newer hires through each step of the firm's work flow. To begin the training session, he focused on mistakes that can plague a case.

#1 - Errors during intake that lead to unmet client expectations

Proper initial review of sources of proof is critical to efficient case planning.

  • Know the client’s litigation goals
  • Inform the client of the needed staffing and get the staffing plan approved
  • Know the level/frequency of communication/reporting desired

#2 - Miscalculations for staffing and scheduling

Under/over staffing or scheduling can be the difference between a burnt out and stressed team or a fresh and prepared team.

  • Select the right staff
  • Know who needs to be on a case -- beginning to end
  • Know who needs to be on a case -- in select phases
  • Staffing is vital to budgeting and success

#3 - Incomplete issues list and trial themes

This is the heart of case preparation.

  • An issues and matters of proof list organizes what you need to present and how
    • Allows for searching through data for preparation for depositions, trial testimony, opening or closing
    • Directs reviewers to data and documents that matter  
  • Utilize trial themes to guide an effective presentation
    • Focus on what is essential to persuade
    • Paint the picture for the finder of fact
    • Create a path to your client’s desired result
  • Create and use early, or risk derailing the end of the case
    • They can change, especially the trial themes
    • Revise and focus on them throughout the case

#4 - Lack of a thorough, well designed discovery plan

It is worth it for the team to spend a significant amount of time discussing and working through this plan after the initial interview and investigation phase.

  • Discovery gives you the proof
  • A haphazard plan usually means too much work to get too little information
  • It will save money in the long run, but prepare the client for the expense 

#5 - Failure to narrow the issues and proof and to stipulate to everything possible

With complex cases, you must simplify as much as possible in order to get to the core of what matters when you get to presenting to a finder of fact.

  • As discovery winds down, a designated team member or group must be in charge of the process
  • Unexpected consequences come from an over-tried case
  • When parties refuse to narrow and stipulate, a finder of fact can be overwhelmed