Trial Essentials

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In this innovative video tutorial — skillfully woven around a fictitious courtroom drama litigation attorneys Neer Lerner and Elliott Malone walk you through the trial process from jury selection to verdict. You'll see the lawsuit progress as professional actors set a backdrop for teaching litigation concepts, general court procedures, and trial basics — while Lerner and Malone provide critical commentary and analysis so you can be prepared for your own day in court.

Tutorial Preview

This course is ideal if you are:

A party representing yourself without an attorney ("pro se" or "pro per"); or

An attorney with minimal or no practical trial knowledge or experience; and

You want to learn courtroom basics — like trial procedures, witness examination, and opening and closing statements —so you can be a strong and effective courtroom advocate.

Sample PDF Documents

As an added bonus, you'll have access to the following PDF sample documents to provide inspiration for your case:

  1. Trial Brief
  2. List of Exhibits
  3. List of Witnesses
  4. Motion in Limine
  5. Statement of Case
  6. Stipulation of Facts
  7. Stipulation Re: Admission of Evidence
  8. Verdict Form

Breaking Down Key Components of a Trial

While the video tutorial dives into many details of the trial process, here are some highlights:

Jury Selection

Choosing a jury is not as simple as picking up a new suit to wear to court. It can be an arduous process, with as many as 100-150 jurors in the pool on any given day. You must take this step seriously if you want to have your best chance at presenting your evidence to impartial and receptive jurors.

You'll learn:

  • Tips on choosing jurors who can give you your best chance to prevail in your case;
  • Why some potential jurors will not openly admit to prejudices that could impede a fair decision — and what you can do to weed out the ones who could hurt your case;
  • What kinds of background questions to ask the potential jurors — if the judge allows — that will give you the best insights into their potential biases;
  • Additional strategies and tips to help you in the jury selection process.

Opening Statements

Opening statements are one of the most critical parts of a trial — and your only chance to make a first impression on the jury. If you mess up here, you would miss a great opportunity to set the right tone for your case.

You'll learn:

  • How to craft and practice your opening statement so that you can make your best first impression;
  • What not to do or say in your opening statement so you don't lose your credibility
  • Ways to get and keep the jurors' attention so they don't drift away and ignore essential details;
  • Why you should not argue your case in the opening statement — what to do instead — and how to appear genuine and likable; and
  • Many additional ways to prepare for your opening statement and present it in a way that makes a positive impression on the judge and jury and starts your case on its best footing.

Plus, you'll see Peter Patterson, the fictitious plaintiff, present a solid opening statement as he greets the jury, recalls his version of the facts, refers to evidence, and tells the jurors what he plans to prove in the trial. But he makes one big mistake that may come back to hurt his case.

Calling Witnesses to the Stand: Direct Examination and Cross-Examination

After opening statements in a trial, the plaintiff and defendant present their case-in-chief. It is time to call and examine witnesses and present evidence that is pertinent to prove their claims and defenses.

On this topic, you'll learn:

  • The vital difference between leading questions and non-leading questions when examining a witness — when they are allowed or "required" — and when they are generally forbidden;
  • How to introduce exhibits at trial — and use a witness' testimony to lay a foundation for the evidence so the court will allow it and you can present it to the jury;
  • Things to consider when selecting the best order to call your witnesses to make your most persuasive case;
  • The difference between direct examination, cross-examination, re-direct examination, and re-cross examination;
  • Why you may want to call your opponent to testify before the opposing attorney puts them on the stand;
  • How to use hearsay exceptions and exclusions to get relevant testimony allowed into evidence — in spite of objections by the opposing attorney;
  • Ways to structure your direct examination and cross-examination to support your case (or discredit your opponent's) — with tips and examples;
  • Ways to impeach (discredit) a witness for dishonesty, inconsistent testimony, bias, and more — so the jury will be inclined to ignore or disbelieve witness testimony that could harm your case;
  • Tips for handling a hostile or evasive witness and get them to answer your questions and provide proper and complete responses; and
  • Many additional helpful tips on how to conduct a direct examination, cross-examination, or a re-direct at trial so you can establish facts and discredit witness testimony.

Simulations of Direct-Examinations and Cross-Examination

You will not merely be instructed in the above examination techniques, you will see them unfold in live action as Peter Patterson directly examines and cross-examines witnesses in the fictitious lawsuit Patterson v. Don's Moving Company:

  • Patterson calls Michael Miller, a key witness in the case, to the stand. Patterson uses Miller's testimony to lay a foundation for introducing exhibits into evidence — a crucial technique you will need to master.
  • Next, Patterson calls Don Deacon, owner of Don's Moving Company, to the stand to elicit testimony that demonstrates his company's negligence. Patterson uses a hearsay exception to admit business records into evidence in the case. You'll see what steps he takes and how he crafts his questions to extract the information he needs.
  • You'll see Patterson take the witness stand to share his own testimony as he represents himself in the case;
  • The opposing attorney will then cross-examine Peter Patterson and expose a significant weaknesses in Patterson’s claim for money damages — so you can learn an important lesson about overpromising and under-delivering.
  • You'll see Patterson cross-examine Randy Roberts — who has changed his testimony since his deposition (given under oath). You'll watch Patterson use a critical technique to impeach (discredit) the credibility of Randy Roberts for offering inconsistent testimony at trial.
  • Next, Patterson cross-examines Roger Roberts in an attempt to discredit Roger’s testimony on grounds that he is a biased witness; and
  • You'll see Patterson cross-examine Rebecca Smith, a sympathetic, elderly witness, to cast doubt on the reliability of her eyewitness testimony by attempting to show that Ms. Smith couldn't really see the details she testified about on direct examination.

These highlights only touch the surface of the insights you can glean from these dramatic simulations — which are designed to help you internalize the examination process so you can learn to elicit testimony from witnesses to discredit them or support your facts, claims, or defenses in a case.

Closing Arguments

Up until this point at trial, the parties have only presented evidence in the case. Now is the time to tie all the pieces together into your final pitch to the jury. Closing arguments should highlight the most significant facts in the case, address weaknesses on both sides (and how the jury ought to interpret them), and tell the jury how the evidence shows that the only fair outcome is a verdict in your favor.

You'll learn:

  • Key components to consider including in your closing arguments — and what to avoid;
  • Warnings to consider at this crucial stage of the trial process — when everyone is tired — and you only have a short amount of time to prepare;
  • How you can turn weaknesses in your case to your advantage — and into an opportunity to elicit sympathy from the jury;
  • Ways to refute your opponent's arguments and tell the jury why the evidence is in your favor; and
  • Additional tips for preparing and presenting your closing arguments in a way that will keep the jury's attention, respect their time, and help you obtain a successful result.

In the simulation, you'll see Patterson present his closing argument with skill, reminding the jury of the evidence that supports his claims — and weaknesses in the testimony of his opponent’s witnesses.

Jury Instructions and the Verdict

After both parties have called witnesses, presented testimony and other evidence, rested their case, and delivered their closing arguments, it's time for the jury to reach a verdict. But first, the judge must instruct the jury on the law and their obligations.

What verdict will the fictitious jury decide in Patterson v. Don's Moving Company? The answer is in Trial Essentials.

But the real value of Trial Essentials is in the commentary, tips, insights, and sample documents brought to you by experienced litigation attorneys — who can help you:

  • Understand trial basics even if you have no courtroom experience;
  • Do your best to select a jury that will be impartial in your case;
  • Learn how to examine and cross-examine all kinds of witnesses — from sympathetic to hostile;
  • Lay a foundation for your evidence so you can present it for consideration in your trial;
  • Make objections in a timely fashion and with a proper legal basis;
  • Craft and present effective opening statements and closing arguments with persuasion and competence; and
  • Avoid embarrassing mistakes and blunders that could cast doubt on your testimony and harm your case.

Study and apply the principles and techniques in Trial Essentials — and you will gain practical trial knowledge so you can represent yourself or your client with confidence and poise.