Throughout my fifteen year career as a paralegal, I have had to deal with many unprepared and inexperienced lawyers and paralegals. Based upon my recent dealings with those representatives, here is my top 7 list of things not to in Small Claims Court:
#7 – Do not delay setting the matter down for Trial. If the matter does not settle at the Settlement Conference, the request for a Trial date should be filed thirty days after the Settlement Conference. Do not wait 8 months to do so, and then complain that the opposing party is looking for an adjournment which is “causing” a delay.
#6 – Make sure your pleadings are correct from the commencement of the proceedings. Do not amend your pleadings 29 days before the second Trial date and most certainly, do not amend your pleadings to raise new issues, or increase the amount of your alleged damages in a weak attempt to persuade the opposing party to settle for the original amount of the claim.
#5 – Comply with the Rules. Do not serve the opposing party with over 100 pages by fax without their consent, and less than thirty days before the trial date. In addition to those 100 pages, do not serve 15 additional documents you want to rely upon the day before trial.
#4 – Not being prepared is not an excuse. Do not introduce over 35 documents you have had in your possession for over two years as exhibits during the trial that you simply did not bother to serve, because you are unprepared. Do not remain silent when the Deputy Judges asks you why you did not serve the documents before the Trial.
#3 – Be prepared for your trial. Have questions prepared relating to the issues in the litigation, to prove your alleged damages rather than spending your time during your Examination-in-Chief asking questions about the “accolades” of your client which are irrelevant, then fail to prove the quantum of your claim.
#2 – Do not object when the opposing party introduces a document during the Trial (that was not served), but was only introduced when it caught your witness in a lie. More importantly, do not make the argument it was not served before the Trial date, when you served dozens of documents the day before the Trial and even tried to slide in over 35 documents during the trial that were not served.
#1 – Do not waste the Courts time, my time, my client’s money, or your client’s money. It is very frustrating when representative does not understand simple legal principals, fails to follows the rules of the Court or does not conducts themselves in a professional manner. It wastes time, money, and resources which could be used elsewhere.