Be Prepared

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Once you are pretty sure your case can't be settled and you will need to go to court, your best approach is to practice presenting it. Line up an objective, tough-minded friend and run through your entire case just as you plan to on court day. Ask your friend for suggestions, not compliments. For example, your friend may tell you that you need a witness or written documentation, a better grasp of the legal technicalities involved, or a better-organized presentation. Take this advice to heart and make all possible improvements. Then, practice again.

The four key phrases to remember as you prepare and practice your courtroom presentation are:

  • Be polite to the judge, your opponent, the clerk, and the bailiff.
  • Bring evidence from witnesses or documents to supplement your own verbal statement of the facts.
  • Organize your presentation to include only necessary facts in a logical way.
  • Keep it short. Remember that the person who is deciding your case has heard thousands of similar stories and will get bored or annoyed if you are needlessly repetitive.

Finally, don't let the robe and other trappings of judicial office obscure the fact that you are dealing with a human being who, like anyone else, is far more likely to be sympathetic to your point of view if you can show that you occupy the moral high ground (for example, you are honest, kind, and pay your debts) and that your opponent is the bad guy (tricky, hard-hearted, and fails to keep promises).

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