American Law Institute-American Bar Association Committee on Continuing Professional Education.
Checklists can be beneficial in the practice of law. A thorough checklist provides assurance that all necessary issues in an initial case investigation have been addressed. It can be of great help in getting ready for trial--serving as a valuable tool in preparing pleadings, discovery requests, and deposition questions. I use checklists in my own practice, especially when handling an unusual case or a complicated medical malpractice or products liability action.
I often use the checklists included in ATLA convention reference materials, TRIAL, and other publications. I find these resources helpful because they are specific and topic oriented. In addition, these resources often contain information that I have not considered, aiding me in preparing the strongest case possible for my client.
With this in mind, I can recommend ALI-ABA's Practice Checklist Manual on Trial Preparation II only to those who are new to the practice of law.
The manual is a compilation of articles published previously in the ALI-ABA's The Practical Litigator magazine. The book is divided into eight parts: Gathering Information, Document Handling and Discovery, Drafting, Pretrial Motions, Depositions, Experts, Alternative Dispute Resolution, and Jury Selection.
Part 1, Gathering Information, will be most helpful to defense lawyers in civil cases. Two of the four articles in this section deal with defensive handling of employment claims and organizing the defense file. The third article, which deals with finding information on the Internet, probably would be useful only to those attorneys who have never used the Internet. The last article contains helpful advice on collecting information in medical malpractice claims.
The second part of the book, Document Handling and Discovery, is also of limited use. This section addresses document handling in mass tort and commercial cases, discovery of computer records, discovery in summary adjudication, and the perils of inadvertent disclosure. Each of these topics could easily be addressed in an entire chapter, if not an entire book. The checklists reflect this fact and are so general that they really do not provide much help to the reader.
Parts 3, 4, and 5 include articles on drafting pleadings and motions and handling depositions. These articles might be helpful refreshers for seasoned attorneys and of some help to novice litigators. The advice in the articles and checklists is fundamental and should be something every litigator with experience would consider without thinking twice.
The sixth section, Experts, advises attorneys to consult the Internet to find information on adverse experts and to continue investigating the expert's credentials even after they have been disclosed by the adverse party. The final article in this section explains how to use a nurse to assist in the handling of a medical malpractice claim.
Part 7, Alternative Dispute Resolution, is made up of two articles. One deals with commercial arbitration and the other with the "don'ts" of mediation. Again, the information is practical for the less experienced attorney.
The final section, Jury Selection, is the only part of the manual that deals with the actual trial. Two of the four articles discuss presenting and arguing a case and avoiding discriminatory peremptory challenges under Baston v. Kentucky. The other two articles offer obvious advice on how to select a favorable jury.
The book comes with a floppy disk that contains all the checklists and forms in the book.
I only feel comfortable recommending this manual to lawyers who have just begun to practice. The articles refer to the federal rules and only sometimes to federal case law. The lack of legal analysis in many of the articles limits the value of the manual as a research tool.
The manual provides an overview on various topics and answers questions that a new lawyer might not want to ask senior peers--such as how to prepare a client for a deposition or what an opponent cannot do during a deposition. For those who have been in practice for any significant amount of time, there are better resources out there.
Scott C. Speier practices in Washington in D.C.