Pittsburgh Legal Back Talk

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How to Come to Court Prepared.

Posted By Cliff Tuttle | October 10, 2018

No. 1,570

If you are representing yourself in court, here are a few tips about preparation.

  1.  Make copies of any documents you wish to present.  Make a copy for the opponent. one for the judge and one for yourself. Keep originals separate in your file. If you are before an arbitration panel, make one for all of the members of the panel.
  2. Do NOT expect to display pictures or text messages on your phone at trial.    Make copies.
  3. Do NOT attempt to present lengthy text messages as evidence.  If you must offer a text message, make sure that it is as short as possible. Be aware that a text message from you that contains profanity (many do) may not portray you in the best light.
  4. If there is a written lease or contract involved in the case, it should be presented first, even if the dispute involves something else.
  5. Put your evidence in order.  It is usually a good idea to staple the items together so that you can deliver one package to everyone at the beginning of the case. This can save a ton of time and helps you present an organized case.
  6. Mark each exhibit with a letter or number.  Refer to each exhibit by its letter or designation in your presentation.
  7. Practice your presentation by speaking out loud. Remember that you are telling a story.  A good story has a beginning, middle and an end. As you practice, try to shorten the time you need to present the facts.
  8. Write down, in advance, questions you may wish to ask your opponent after he/she testifies.  Put them in order, if possible.  Remember that you are required to ask a question at that point — you are not permitted to start testifying or make a speech. Since there is always more than one way to ask a question, you may wish to rewrite some of them.
  9. Write out a short summary of your case.  You may wish to present it at the beginning or at the end.
  10. Remember, you are required to make a formal presentation that follows a pre-established format. It is not a conversation.  If you don’t observe the rules, you hurt your chances of winning.  And winning is what it is all about.



CLIFF TUTTLE has been a Pennsylvania lawyer for over 45 years and (inter alia) is a real estate litigator and legal writer. The posts in this blog are intended to provide general information about legal topics of interest to lawyers and consumers with a Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania focus. However, this information does not constitute legal advice and there is no lawyer-client relationship created when you read this blog. You are encouraged to leave comments but be aware that posted comments can be read by others. If you wish to contact me in privacy, please use the Contact Form located immediately below this message. I will reply promptly and in strict confidence.

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