Be prepared! I cannot stress this enough.
- Save every correspondence, whether via email or regular mail.
- Build a timeline of the project or issue from the 1st email or correspondence to the last.
- Make sure that you have all originally designed or photographed documents saved and printed out or original pieces, so you’ll be able to bring along, and always make sure to save files on two drives, not just one computer.
- Keep all receipts of expenses.
- You will go to mediation first and this is where documents get revealed. Both sides if not able to settle, will wait to present to the judge, but beware, the other side now has time to think and prepare their “changed” strategy?
- Be sure that your estimate or contract was clearly written, outlines what work was to be done, the timeline for production and is signed by the client.
- If you need to consult with a lawyer to know your rights and for advice, it’s worth the expense. If you cannot afford to consult with a lawyer, the court can provide one, or there are lots of organizations that provide counsel for creatives. *(links at bottom)
The judge may not understand your exact industry, but he/she does understand documentation, your work timeline, signed contracts and should be fair if you have the information to support and back up your claim.
They have also entered the 21st century, and won’t let you use your cell phone or computer in the courtroom while you’re waiting, but if you need it to help your case, bring it! Video cameras, laptops, and emails or images on your smart phone are all accepted as evidence.
The judge is interested in you answering his or her questions easily, so don’t over talk and start explaining this and that. They have so many cases to hear and won’t care about your storytelling. If they ask a question, answer yes or no, not blah blah blah. However, be genuinely yourself. If the judge does asks you to explain, tell your side but state the facts.
You also have the right to cross examine the witnesses of the opposing side, so think of questions that may support your case. Also be prepared that the witness may say something totally unfounded and you may need to think quickly of how you can ask the right questions or show proof that proves that not to be so. Remember they also have this right and bring questions to you.
And of course, You’re are sworn in, so please tell the truth!
Legal Counsel resources for creatives: