Five Ways to Limit the Chance Your Legal Team Will Err in Court: Advice from a Lawyer

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The Internet, every newspaper and every media outlet is screaming and laughing about the big mix-up at the Oscars this year when “Moonlight” won best picture, not “La La Land.”

Matthew Maddox Latest 912-2-16

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Attorney Matthew Maddox of New Canaan

I thought “what a fantastic and truly embarrassing error on such an extraordinarily huge stage.”  Then I began to wonder “How did this happen?” followed by “Thank God it’s only the Oscars.”

Mistakes happen.   All the time.

Here are five ways to limit the risk of mistakes when everything is at stake — in court:

#1)  Make sure that your lawyer is authentically invested, personally and professionally, in  your cause.  If you’re only another case and just another fee to your lawyer, important things about you, your goals and the methods to attain those goals will definitely be overlooked.

#2)  Be clear about everyone’s role in your case.  Understand what your role is and what you are expected to contribute to the building of your case.  Understand what your law firm expects from you and understand what the roles may be of support personnel such as paralegals.

#3)  Map out a course for yourself with the assistance of your personally and professionally invested lawyer.  Your lawyer should be able to explain procedures and the law as they apply to your case and the likely direction that you will have to travel in order to conclude your case in the best possible way.

#4)  Be prepared to change course.  Things change in litigation; all the time.  Your law firm needs to grasp this essential concept and be resilient enough to re-chart your direction at any time.  Headlong commitment to a single strategy despite changing evidence or players is a recipe for disaster.

#5)  Preparation, preparation, preparation.  Your lawyer and your law firm must begin preparation of your case for trial from the very first moments of your representation.  This doesn’t mean that you MUST go to trial.  This just means that preparation is everything.  And when you prepare for trial, you’re preparing for every contingency, which allows you and your law firm to keep options open for the best possible result for you.

Who knows exactly what happened with the Best Picture snafu last night?  Maybe Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway weren’t focused.  Maybe communications broke down on the Oscar information highway.  It hardly matters.

Just be glad that Warren and Faye weren’t lawyers and that it wasn’t your case being fumbled in court.


Attorney Matthew Maddox has offices in New Canaan. His blog appears on his law firm website and is available by email. It appears on as a regular column, “Advice from a Lawyer.”

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