You should be assembling your trial notebook from the day you file or receive the complaint. The effect of assembling from day one is that you always have the endgame in mind. This focuses you in a way that is different from the settlement mindset. Your case may very well settle for the benefit of your client because you have convinced the other side from day one that you are actually getting ready to try the case.
Take your favorite three-ring binder and make all of the tabs for the sections listed here. I used a binder with a clear plastic sheet on the front and back. You slip into the plastic sheet a cover with the caption at the top, the words “Trial Notebook” in large, bold letters in the middle, and your name, address, and contact information at the bottom.
From this point on, you can organize the sections as you see fit. You will want a pleadings section. This has the last version of the complaint and answer and any relevant prior pleadings. You will need the pleadings for jury instructions and for motions to conform to the proof. Have your motions for directed verdict ready to go in this section.