Courts determine the outcome of criminal trials and civil hearings. County, state and federal courts hear arguments about everything from marital disputes to traffic violations to murder charges. There are approximately 100 million cases initiated in state courts each year, which does not include filings in the county or federal courts. This means that many Americans will likely find themselves before a judge or in some other kind of legal proceeding at some point. Whether your case is local, federal, criminal, or civil, there are some steps you should take to prepare before your court date.
1. Find legal representation.
The first step in preparing for a court case is to find an attorney who specializes in the appropriate field of law. Since the legal field covers such a wide range of specialties, most lawyers concentrate on cases in a specific field. While criminal attorneys argue criminal cases, family lawyers represent parties dealing with divorce or custody issues. It’s crucial to locate a lawyer who focuses on the field of law that pertains to your case because they will be familiar with relevant case law.
For example, if you’re searching for a family lawyer in Long Island, a Google search may lead you to Howard Fensterman. Fensterman is a managing partner with a prominent law firm in New York, and his specialization areas include family law and real estate law. Fensterman’s clients benefit from his years of legal experience, and as an attorney with a large law firm, he has access to many staff resources. Your case can benefit from the services of an entire team ready to conduct research, gather evidence, and prepare court filings.
If you opt to represent yourself, you will either need to file your case with the appropriate court or respond to a court filing. Read case law that pertains to your legal issue. You may be able to use case law to identify relevant information you should present in court. If possible, attend court hearings to get a sense of how they work and the appropriate way to address the judge. Learn legal terms you may need to use during your hearing to avoid missteps during the proceedings. In general, it’s not recommended to represent yourself in court, as there are many ins and outs of the legal system that an experienced attorney, such as Mr. Fensterman, would know and be able to utilize in your favor. Bear this in mind as you work to secure legal representation for your case.
Gather relevant data for your case.
You may need to be prepared to testify in court. Before heading to court, your attorney needs as much relevant information as possible to prepare your case effectively. For example, if you’re pursuing a personal injury case, make notes about the accident. Include when and where it happened, the symptoms you developed, your medical diagnosis, and the treatment you require. Your medical records can be used to support your claims.
When preparing for questioning with your legal team of attorneys, your lawyers should advise you of potential questions you may be asked and offer tips for answering these questions. Provide your lawyer with a list of relevant witnesses who can testify. If you’re representing yourself, you will need to talk to these witnesses before the court. Concentrate on witnesses who will offer accurate data that supports your case.
Manage your conduct.
Social media is public, which means that the person or company you’re opposing in court may access your social media accounts and attempt to find items they can use to counter your arguments. Social media traps can establish marital infidelity. Pictures, posts, and status updates on social media that seem innocent to you may be used to argue that an accident did not leave you with life-changing injuries. References to physical limitations before your accident may be used to argue your health issues were pre-existing. Review your social media accounts and remove posts and pictures that could be misinterpreted.
Avoid engaging in or posting on social media about any public behavior that can be harmful to your case. Avoid discussing the case in public or making statements that can be used against you in court. Avoid talking to your opponents without legal representation to ensure your rights are protected. If an insurance company or legal team pressures you to accept a settlement, refuse to sign anything without your lawyer present.
Present your case.
When appearing in court, dress appropriately. You may opt to wear a suit if you’re representing yourself, but a shirt or blouse and dress pants are also suitable attire. If you’re representing yourself, you will need to outline your opening statements, have questions prepared, know what witnesses you’re calling, and have copies of exhibits you’re presenting to the court to support your claims.
It would help if you also had a notepad and pen handy for taking notes while witnesses testify. This can be an effective way of ensuring you address inaccuracies when you have an opportunity to ask questions. You can also pass notes to your lawyer if you can refute witness statements.