Most litigators do a good job of organising the documents on a case. But when it comes to managing witnesses, there is a wide spectrum. The wide spectrum means that if you manage your witnesses well, you’ll have an advantage. Witnesses are the life of a trial.
Witness management should start at file opening and continue right up to and throughout trial. The easiest way to keep track of it all is with a spreadsheet.
There are 5 components to witness scheduling and the spreadsheet:
- Witnesses – tracking the name, role (lay, treating, rule 53) and relationship (family, friend) or profession (doctor including type, accountant, etc.).
- Contact Info – cell phone and email are the most important, so witnesses are reachable on the fly. Address for services helps with serving the summons.
- Preparation – witnesses should get a long-range letter giving them a heads up about trial dates. Gathering updated C.V.s and ensuring Form 53s are complete for expert witnesses is important. Information about if or when summons have been served can be included. Notes on witness preparation including calls, memos and meetings can be tracked.
- Scheduling – you’ve got to make an informed estimate of when a witness will testify and update that often, taking into account days witness are not available and special scheduling. Be direct with your witnesses as they need to work around the Court’s schedule, not vice-versa.
- Testimony – a brief summary of evidence is a useful resource for the team preparing the trial. It can form the basis for a will say statement. Sometimes a witness’s testimony is based on a report or sometimes a lot of documents and those can be identified. The witness will need key documents as they prepare. This is also where you can comment on whether you have prepared a direct examination and/or cross-examination of that witness, covering the key issues you need the witness to address. For one’s own witnesses, a mock cross-examination is a good idea.
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