February 17, 2021 Articles

How to Turn Complexity into a Compelling Case at Trial

Three tips for preparing even the most complicated case for trial by distilling the evidence to core documents and testimony that can be presented as a “trial in a box.”

By Roger J. Marzulla

One of the most capable judges on the bench once instructed counsel in a multimillion-dollar case to present him with a “trial in a box.” By that he meant that, although there were dozens of witnesses and tens of thousands of documents, the parties should bring to trial only those ingredients necessary to prove their respective cases—and nothing else. He wanted a trial that contained only the evidence, documents, and argument needed to produce a complete and satisfying result, like one of those meal-in-a-box deliveries.

During the havoc of preparing a complex case for trial, I often remind myself to ask whether a particular line of questioning, exhibit, or document properly belongs in my trial box. By focusing on just the evidence needed to prove a claim or defense, as opposed to material that may be only helpful to that proof, I find that what may have once seemed like an array of disjointed facts and documents can be transformed into a compelling and readily supported narrative.

Here are three tips for how you can effectively prepare a case in a box:

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