Catch ‘Em by Surprise

I'm going to veer from the more substantive posts I've been doing lately to discuss a trial tactic that is particularly applicable with pro se litigants (people representing themselves in lawsuits).

And although I always hated it when I heard old lawyers do this, I'm going to start with a bit of a war story.

In general, I'm a pretty laid back person. I never believed in doing extra work on a case just to be able to bill the client, if I don't think a motion is going to be granted then I don't file it unless there is a specific reason (like a point on appeal), and I always went out of my way to be nice and work with the other lawyer on rescheduling.

Many times, this led to the lawyer assuming I would be the same way in trial. However, my preparation for a trial was exhaustive. I did all of the exhibits myself, made all the copies myself, put together my own trial notebooks, went over depositions and discovery multiple times, hand wrote out my direct and cross examinations as well as opening and closing statements and voir dire, etc. Many times I barely referred to the notes I had made because I had already went over them so many time that I knew them by heart.

I managed to get some great verdicts in trials like this although I normally only caught the other lawyer by surprise once. They learned after that.

A pro se litigant is in a similar situation.

The lawyer you are going up against, or the other party, is going to assume you know very little. A clear sign of a lack of experience is filing a bunch of motions and paperwork and doing a lot of extra work that 1) isn't required  and 2) you aren't being paid to do.

The trial tactic tip for today is to be prepared, do your legal research, use our Guerrilla Guides to get ready, but lay behind the log and don't let the opposition  know exactly how much you do know. Don't mention that you have been going to court and watching hearings and motions. Don't try to discuss case law with them.

Be prepared but don't give anything away.

Trial by ambush works great when you can get away with it.

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