Phase 2: Trial

The trial phase of the civil litigation process will be very different if your case is uncontestedmeaning that both sides agree on what the final outcome of the case should be. If your case is uncontested, the trial phase should be very short and might be better thought of as a “hearing.”

During the final hearing of an uncontested case, you will present your signed order to the judge, answer any questions that the judge may have about your agreement, and then file the order with the court clerk once the judge has signed it.

If you and the other side of your case disagree about what the outcome of the case should be, then your case is contested. If your case is contested, then you will need to spend a lot of time preparing for trial.

To prepare for a contested trial, you should start by looking for an attorney who offers limited-scope representation and can coach you through the issues and strategies that might come up in the trial based on the facts of your case. You should also learn the Texas Rules of Civil Procedure, Texas Rules of Evidence, and trial objections and practice them regularly to be comfortable using them quickly and under pressure.

Watch - Representing Yourself In Court.

Read Civil Trial Preparation.

Checklist Steps

The court system is complicated. While you generally have the right to represent yourself in civil court, the process will go more smoothly if you are represented by a lawyer who knows how to navigate the system.

To find a lawyer, use TexasLawHelp's Legal Help Directory.

Or contact aLawyer Referral Service. Such services can help connect you with a lawyer they have screened in advance. You pay $20 for a 30-minute consultation. After that consultation, you and the lawyer can discuss their regular fees and maybe negotiate them. 

Watch How Do I Find a Lawyer?, a video by TexasCourtHelp.

If you plan to represent yourself in a contested case, consider hiring a private attorney to provide you with limited-scope representation, also known as "unbundled legal services."

Not every attorney offers limited-scope representation. However, attorneys who provide limited-scope representation may help you prepare for court at a price you can afford. Limited scope representation is less expensive than hiring an attorney to go to court for you because you will complete most of the work yourself. However, talking to an experienced attorney about the presentation, procedures, and objections you are likely to see and use in court could determine whether you win or lose your case.

Watch How Do I Find a Lawyer?, a video by TexasCourtHelp that also includes information about limited scope representation.

Even if you hire a lawyer on a limited-scope basis to help you prepare your case, study court procedures to understand what is happening during your trial. Whether or not you are a lawyer, you will be expected to follow the same rules that lawyers must follow in court. These rules are called the Texas Rules of Civil Procedure.

Once you are in trial, you will not have the chance to research what is happening. Instead, you should prepare for different possible scenarios and outcomes in advance so that you are ready to participate even if things go differently than you expected.

Watch - Representing Yourself In Court.

Also, watch other trials and hearings at Texas Court Live Streams

In addition to the Texas Rules of Civil Procedure, you should also spend time studying the Texas Rules of Evidence. These rules tell how to introduce and share important information about your case with the court.

As you study, make sure that you understand the legal concepts of relevance, privilege, hearsay, and admissibility. Understanding these concepts will help you learn objections that can be used to keep inadmissible or inappropriate information out of court. Read Gathering and Presenting Evidence.

Generally, if you disagree with the trial judge about what information should or should not be admitted into court, you need to say something about it during trial. This is because in most cases you will not be able to appeal your case, for that reason, unless the trial judge made a mistake despite your objection. Learning how to properly preserve a mistake for appeal will be part of your trial preparation. 

In court, you will need to clearly explain how the law applies to the facts of your case.

You will also need to know your case's legal concepts, available evidence, procedures, and rules.

This already is a lot of information to remember!

In court, you must be ready to apply and present all of this information while the other side interrupts you, tells the judge that your story is not believable, you do not understand the law, and then tells their version of the story that you might know or believe is untrue. To stay calm even in this stressful atmosphere, you will need to repeatedly practice what you want to say. 

Watch - Getting Ready to Go to Court.

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