Plan your Case
When you are preparing for a trial it is important to be organized and plan your case. Most importantly, you will need to think about what facts you need to prove to the court and how you will prove them. This may involve some legal research, first to understand your rights and responsibilities and also so you can rely on case law to support your legal argument. To learn more see Legal Research. Once you have a list of facts you want to prove you can consider how you will prove it. This is typically done either by witness testimony or through documentary evidence.
Plan Your Witness Evidence
You need to think about whether you need anyone to come to the trial to give evidence. Witnesses can testify about facts that are relevant to the case. They may also testify about certain documents.
For example, if you need to prove a signature on a document, you may need to call that person to confirm that they signed the document.
If you decide that you need witnesses, contact them to ask them to attend the trial. If you are uncertain whether a particular witness will show up at the trial, serve them with a subpoena. A subpoena is a form that notifies a witness that they are required to attend in court to give evidence at a trial and that failure to do so may result in a charge of contempt of court. Prepare the subpoena using Form 25.
When you are preparing your case for trial, you may want to go over the evidence with your witnesses beforehand to let them know the questions they will be asked. You may want to prepare a list of information for you and each of your witnesses to get ready for trial. This list should set out:
The name, address, age, and occupation of the witness
Their education, if necessary
Their experience, if necessary and
What they will testify about
Rule 7-4 states that you must file and serve on every other party a list of the witnesses you may call at trial (except expert witnesses and adverse parties).
Unless the court has made an order to the contrary, you must serve your witness list on the other party at least 28 days before the scheduled trial date. The list must include the full name and address of each listed witness. If you later find that the list is inaccurate or incomplete, you must amend your list and serve it on the other parties.
For more information on witness evidence at trial, see the Evidence.
The most important thing to remember about getting ready for a trial is that you need to be organized. You need to organize
Your witnesses, and
All the law that you want the court to consider
It is a good idea to organize all your information for the trial and put it in one place so you can easily find things and can keep everything up to date. You could put it all in a three-ring binder or in a folder in your computer. At the very least, your central information source should include:
To do list with dates: A list of all the things that you must file or do before the trial and the dates on which they must be done, including filing a trial record and trial certificate. (If your trial certificate is not filed in time, you will lose your trial date.)
Facts to prove: A list of all the facts you will need to prove your claim or your defence and how you will prove each fact (for example, by getting a witness to testify about it or presenting a document to the court)
Expert information: The names, addresses, phone numbers, and schedules of any experts you plan to call
Witness information: The names, addresses, and phone numbers of your witnesses and the dates of when they will be called to testify
Others: The names, addresses, and phone numbers of everyone else involved, including defendants or plaintiffs, or the lawyers acting for them
Book of Documents
One of the most important things you will need to prepare before the trial is a book of documents. This book will contain all the documents that you will want to present to the court as evidence during the trial. Organize them according to date, separated by numbered tabs, to make them easy to find. In addition, if documents are more than one page long, number each page. You can enter this book of documents as an exhibit at trial.
Think about how you will prove each of the documents to the court. You may have to call witnesses to prove that certain documents are authentic – that they are what they say they are (for example, that a letter was signed and sent on a particular date). However, before you consider calling a witness to prove a document, you should ask the other party if they agree that you can present the document to prove a particular fact (for example, that the letter was sent on the date indicated). If they agree, then you may be able to present the document in court without needing to call a witness.
You may also want to set out in writing the various agreements you have made with the other parties about the documents. A written document agreement allows you to present your documents without objections about the validity of any of your documents and tells the court the basis upon which documents are being presented. A document agreement can be very simple but should include statements that:
- The documents included in the book are true copies of the originals
- The documents are signed and dated as indicated
- They were mailed or faxed or emailed as noted and
- They were received in good order
If possible, it helps the court if the parties can agree before the trial to prepare a joint book of documents so that all of the documents are in one place. If the parties agree, this joint book of documents can be entered as an exhibit at the trial. If there are some documents you want to present to the Court, but the other parties have objected to including them in the joint book of documents, you will have to deal with these documents separately during the trial.
While not strictly necessary, it is a very good idea to prepare one extra book of documents for the judge so that they can make notes and highlight the documents, if necessary.
Before Your Day in Court
Your day in Court will be a big day. Here are some was to prepare:
Go court watching: One of the best ways to find out what to expect is to take some time to visit Court while it is in session. The BC Supreme Court is open to the public, and you are allowed to walk into Court to watch and listen
Write out what you plan to say: It is a good idea to try to write down what you plan to say. You can write an outline, or write every word. You probably will not end up saying exactly what you write, but trying to write it out is a good exercise
Practice: Take the time to actually say what you plan to say out loud. Time yourself