February 27, 2014 by sandyonyourside
When we experience something out of the ordinary – an accident, an assault, a viscious slur – we think we’ll always remember exactly what happened. But we won’t. Not even for a day. Not even for half a day.
Neuroscientists tell us that we start forgetting the details of an event almost as soon as it’s over. In fact, memory decays most rapidly in the first few hours after the experience.
That’s why it’s important to keep a litigation journal.
A litigation journal is a file or a notebook in which you write down information related to your case. Depending on the case, it could be the daily record of your physical and emotional condition after an accident, notes about your interactions with your spouse during a divorce, a record of your boss’s comments, or a description of changes in the condition of your property. The important thing is to record the details while they are fresh in your mind, before they are lost forever.
When you consider that most cases take months or years to resolve, the benefits of a litigation journal are obvious: they freshen memory, document patterns of behavior over time, and preserve the details that make for strong, believable evidence. No wonder divorce, employment, and personal injury attorneys routinely advise their clients to keep litigation journals.
Here are four tips to help you create a winning litigation journal.
1. Keep It Real
* Write only what you personally saw, heard, said, felt, or smelled. Everything else is hearsay and may be inadmissible in court.
* For each entry, accurately note the date and time of the event and the date and time you began your record.
* Resist the temptation to exaggerate, editorialize, or fabricate.
* Be objective. The other side, the judge, and the jury will likely be able to read the journal. Speculation and ranting will only weaken your account and defeat the whole purpose of keeping a record.
2. Sweat the Details
* Specify who, what, when, where, and how. Specific details make your case believable and compelling. There is a world of difference between an entry that reads: “On March 16, my boss made a sexually provocative comment to me,” and one that reads:
“March 16, ,2014, 3PM. About 15 minutes ago, when the other coworkers in my work area were in the conference room for a meeting, Mr. Pigg came out of his office, stood behind my desk as I was working on my quarterly report, and bent down and whispered in my ear, ‘You have such a gorgeous derrière.’ His breath smelled of alcohol. After whispering in my ear, he stood up, patted me on the head, and returned to his office humming “We Are The Champions.”
* Where relevant, take measurements and identify possible witnesses.
* If you are unsure whether something you experienced is relevant to your case, write it down anyway. It may prove important down the road.
3. Be You
* You entries will be more believable if you write in your own voice. Don’t try to sound like a lawyer or a professor (unless you are a lawyer or a professor). The more natural you are, the more believable. Be yourself.
* Resist the temptation to return to your entries to correct composition mistakes or to polish them up. This also will make your accounts seem fabricated.
4. Preserve Physical Evidence
* Carefully preserve “things,” a/k/a physical evidence. The thing that is broken or frayed or rotted or malfunctioning, the nasty email or photo — all of this is your hard evidence. Keep it.
* Label and date all physical evidence to indicate where it was found, when it was received, and so on.
* Where it is not possible to preserve physical evidence, take a picture or video of it.
With a good litigation journal, you can create a powerful picture in court of exactly what happened and why you deserve to win your case. But there’s more.
Your litigation journal may convince your opponent that it’s best to settle out of court.
That’s what I call Taking Control of Your Case.
‘Til next week.