Our firm has a monster of a trial coming up ... and I was enlisted to help! When I say monster, I do mean monster. There is one plaintiff, who in essence represents over 80 people, four defendants and four third party defendants. As the defendants we get to defend claims against the Plaintiff as well as pursue claims against the third party defendants. Plus, this case involves 10 causes of action, none of which have been settled by motion or summary judgment. It's pretty exciting around here!
So Partner sends me an email asking for my assistance in preparing for trial. Then Associate walks into my office:
Associate: "Hey, did you get Partner's email? Do you know what you need to help with?"
Me: "Yes, I got it right here. Prepare jury instructions and.... motions in lime?"
Associate: "Um, you mean 'motions in limine.' Do you think you can handle those? I'll give you all the prior status reports and pleadings that you will need."
Me: "Sure, no problem. Actually, I'm pretty excited."
Associate walks out of my office. I take a big breath, turn to my computer screen and immediately google "motions in limine." This is the epitome of being thrown into practice. You get to work on assignments you never knew existed with names you can barely pronounce. Like voir dire....who the hell came up with that term?
Then there's the jury instructions. The first ten jury instructions were kind of fun. You have to establish the elements and burdens of proof for each claim and try to present them in a coherent fashion to the jury. Except the pattern jury instructions are dripping with legalese. I re-read them and kept thinking to myself- really? I barely understand this definition of proximate cause and I went to lawschool. You're going to pull 12 random people off the street and talk to them about superceding causes unbroken by a direct chain of sequential events? Good luck with that. I might as well write all these jury instructions in Chinese. The jury can just decide which party is correct by which witnesses have the most realistic looking toupes.
Also, I have a beef with exhibit lists. Can someone please explain to me why I have to review an "exhibit list" containing 997 exhibits? Seriously? My poor brain can't handle it all. Why do we even need exhibits? I mean people swear to tell the truth (the whole truth and nothin' but the truth) anyway, right (ha ha)?
After I'm done with all that, I get to work on voir dire questions and a trial brief. Cool huh? Actually, I have no idea because I have never seen a single set of voir dire questions and I have no idea what a trial brief is! Let the fun begin!
The crazy thing is that most cases never get this close to trial. Many lawyers never really get a chance to do trial prep work. I should feel lucky that I get some of this experience so early on in my career. But I can't help but be amazed at how much of the trial prep for this high stakes case is being done by lawyers who have no idea what they are doing (me!). Then I reemember, in the field of law, you never have all the answers.