Recently, I was lucky enough to have my first Superior Court trial experience. I second chaired a two and a half week judge alone trial, which allowed me to put into action what I have learned in both law school and my articles. Below are a few lessons I learned throughout the trial.
It was my job to have the briefs, documents and exhibits ready to pass to the first chair whenever he required them. It is important to know all the nuances of the file and have a system that works for you so you are able to quickly find whatever it is the first chair will be referring to.
Take great notes.
The first chair will rely on these when preparing for the next part of the trial.
Your work counts.
Expect the first chair, and the court, to rely on your work. Throughout the trial, numerous issues came up that I had to research. I was tasked with putting together briefs and overviews of specific issues and areas of law for the first chair, which were eventually provided to the court. I was thankful that I thoroughly researched and edited my work in the first instance, and I was confident that the court could rely on it. (Remember that the judges have articling students, too, and they are frequently asked to check counsel’s submissions.)
Eat and sleep whenever possible. Being in trial is extremely busy. Although court is typically only in session from 10:00 am to 4:30 pm, we were often researching, preparing, drafting, meeting with witnesses, etc. in the mornings, through lunches, and in the evenings. I quickly realized how important it is to take advantage of a few minutes of down time whenever possible.
Don’t be afraid to make your thoughts heard…the first chair asked you to help with the trial for a reason. If you think there is a question that should be put to the witness, pass the first chair a note.
It is easy to be overwhelmed with the workload and schedule when in trial, and forget that this is exactly the type of opportunity you’ve dreamed of. I quickly learned to take a step back and enjoy what I was experiencing. Since cases don’t often go to trial anymore, this experience comes around less and less frequently. Being able to see first-hand the court process, to watch and learn from an amazing litigator and advocate, and listen to the presiding Justice’s views and editorializations was an experience I will never forget.
If you have a hearing or trial coming up: good luck, and enjoy it!
Jory Garibaldi is an Articling Student at Harrison Pensa.