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The Life of a Trial Lawyer

Today, the whole firm feels like the bride that was left stranded at the alter.  We were supposed to start a three week trial yesterday.  It is a complicated case, originally filed in September 2004, with over 10,000 documents exchanged between the parties.  We have all (attorneys and staff) cut summer vacations short and worked feverishly to prepare for the trial.  We’ve been working particularly hard in the last month to six weeks— working long days and weekends preparing motions and briefs, poring over documents, and contacting witnesses.

In our county, we have a central docket — the cases are not assigned to a particular judge, but rotate among the available judges.  This helps move the cases through the system.  So Monday morning, we proceeded to the courthouse and went to docket call to get our assignment of a judge.  All 6 attorneys involved in the case announced to the court and the judicial clerk that we were present, that we expected the case to take three weeks, and that we were ready to go.   After hearing announcements from the attorneys on the other cases, the judge briefly took a recess so she and the judicial clerk could discuss “assignments” of the cases to the available judges.

After the recess, the judge and clerk came back into the courtroom and dramatically called all the attorneys in our case to the bench.  Once up there, she told us that, due to scheduling and summer vacations, there weren’t any judges that were scheduled to be in town for three straight weeks. Because we didn’t have a judge, we couldn’t go to trial.

And that was that.  We did a little scrambling to come up with creative solutions so that we could try the case, but it was all for nought.  The trial has been re-scheduled, and we get to go through the process again.

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