Firm Courts Preparation for Cases
Posted 4/14/2005 02:42 PM
Offutt, Fisher & Nord practices in its own realistic legal setting.
Story by Jeff Pullin Email | Bio
When D.C. Offutt Jr. visited a San Francisco law firm in the mid-1990s, he returned to his own firm with an idea that changed the way it handles its cases.
“I was looking through this book of press clippings about the firm, and it had an article that said ‘San Francisco Law Firm Has Only Courtroom in State,'” said Offutt of Huntington-based Offutt, Fisher & Nord. “And it was a story about how they had a mock courtroom to prepare witnesses for trials. And I thought it was a really neat idea.”
When the firm renovated its space at 949 Third Ave. in 1999, it decided to build its own courtroom.
“We used to use real courtrooms on Saturdays or any available times, and that was really a hassle,” he said. “Building our own courtroom really just made sense because it is more convenient for the client and for us.”
The mock courtroom was built to look like an authentic courtroom, complete with plaintiff and defendant tables, a judge’s bench, two witness stands and a jury box. Because it is in Huntington, it displays seals from the states of Ohio and West Virginia, as well as the Commonwealth of Kentucky. In addition to the courtroom, Offutt, Fisher & Nord also has a “judge’s chambers” and a deliberation room.
“We wanted it to look as real as possible,” Offutt said. “Many of our clients have never been in a courtroom, and it can be intimidating. A lot of our clients are physicians, and they have devoted their lives to studying medicine, and they are petrified of court.
“We are able to show them what it is like and help them prepare for the trial so they are more relaxed when they get into a real courtroom.”
The firm also uses the courtroom for actual mediation and arbitration proceedings. They also can record testimony from witnesses who cannot attend trials in the room so it can be presented to real juries in a court ambience.
The courtroom also provides the firm with the opportunity to hold focus groups to better prepare a case.
“A mock jury or a focus group can really help you prepare well for a trial,” Offutt said. “It really helps you evaluate your strengths and weaknesses before you go in the courtroom.”
Offutt said the procedures in today’s legal proceedings continue to become more scientific. In medical malpractice cases, the trials are so expensive and full of detail that proper preparation is necessary when there is so much at stake.