Proactive Litigation Paralegal Tip

A proactive litigation paralegal is a valuable addition to any litigation team.  Being proactive is a critical skill needed to succeed as a paralegal. 

How can you be a proactive litigation paralegal?

To some attorneys, it might mean that you take some mind-reading classes and learn to read their minds. Most of us are not that talented. Instead, we have to learn to adopt proactive behaviors and try to stay one step ahead of the deadlines.

Being proactive requires three key behaviors:

  1. Anticipatory: acting in advance of a future situation, rather than just reacting.
  2. Change-Oriented:  taking control and causing something to change, rather than adapting to a situation or waiting for something to happen.
  3. Self-Initiated:  do not need to be asked to act, nor require detailed instructions to act.

To be a proactive litigation paralegal, you must know what is going on in all of your litigation cases.  How can you anticipate the needs of your attorneys if you don’t know what deadlines coming up in your cases?  Instead of waiting for the attorney to ask you to prepare for an upcoming deposition or a summary judgment filing, you could start working on those projects well in advance of being asked.

proactive litigation paralegal

What is a Players List?

A Players List can be a proactive tool to help a litigation paralegal manage all of the names that you come across throughout your litigation cases.  The Players List also becomes your draft Trial Witness List when you start preparing for trial.  A Players List is helpful because you will have all of the key witness information available at your fingertips throughout the life of a case. 

What is a Players List? It is a list of all of the people involved in the case, whether they are a witness, opposing counsel, paralegal, or other people who have a role in the case.

How to Start a Players List

To start a Players List – For every pleading, discovery response, interview note, documents produced, and deposition transcript that comes in on the case, you’ll want to extract all names into an Excel spreadsheet with the following fields of information:

  1. First Name
  2. Last Name (have each column contain the least amount of information possible so that you can quickly sort and filter the entire spreadsheet)
  3. Role (their role in the case, not their job title)
  4. Source (where you’re getting their name from)
  5. Street Address (makes it easy for service of process later on)
  6. City
  7. State
  8. Work Phone
  9. Mobile Phone
  10. Email
  11. Job Title
  12. Interviewed
  13. Deposition Date
  14. Trial Witness

Why have a Players List?

By having all of the names and information in one place, you will also have a list ready when the attorney wants to decide who needs to be interviewed, deposed, or subpoenaed for trial.  And because cases can last for years, you’ll be able to quickly answer the attorney’s question, “who is Jay Smith, and why is he on the opposing counsel’s witness list?”

Additionally, since you’re reviewing each of the pleadings and discovery responses as they come in on the case, you will know about upcoming deadlines and be able to proactively assist the attorney by having more time to prepare for those deadlines.  For example, after reviewing the new pleadings filed each day, you know that there is a deposition of one of the parties coming up next month.  Now you can get started on preparing the deposition prep notebook rather than waiting until the attorney asks you to start gathering documents and things for the deposition.

proactive litigation paralegal

Another example of how the Players List can help you be a proactive litigation paralegal is using the list to sort and filter by various columns.  For example, if the discovery deadline is approaching and the attorney needs to know who still needs to be deposed, you can filter the Players List by a column you’ve identified as Deposition Date. Then select only the blanks to get a filtered list of witnesses who have not been deposed yet.  See the screenshot below.

Step 1: Turn on the filter

proactive litigation paralegal screen shot 1
The “Filter” function is in the top right menu bar under the “Sort/Filter” button.

Step 2: Click the column to filter

proactive litigation paralegal screen shot 2
In this example, to see who has not been deposed yet, we are clicking the Deposition Date column and checking the box “Blanks.”

Step 3: Report on who has not been deposed

proactive litigation paralegal screenshot 3
You now have a segmented list of ONLY those witnesses who have not been deposed.

If you are not comfortable using Microsoft Excel, check out this video on 3 Excel Tips for Paralegals.

Adopting this proactive litigation paralegal tool will be much more productive than that mind-reading class! If you want to learn how to proactively move your cases forward during the discovery phase of litigation, our Litigation Paralegal Boot Camp will do that for you.


  • Dawn Bateman September 11, 2020 at 4:56 pm Reply

    I love love the Players List concept.

    Thank you.

    • Ann Pearson September 14, 2020 at 9:35 pm Reply

      Thank you, Dawn. We’re always happy to hear that!

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