How Do You Compose a Chronology?
Simply put, a chronology is a sequential list of events (historical incidents, personal achievements & milestones, public policy developments, etc.) that took place according to the dates. The earliest happening is recorded first while the most recent one comes at the end.
Chronologies are used for different purposes. In legal matters, you may need one to organize your thoughts and give your attorney every little bit of your side of the story.
Writing a Chronology
Being thorough and accurate is essential to drafting a proper chronology. The material you provide to your lawyer might be used by them to file a complaint with the court, prepare answers to possible questions from the defendant's attorney in discovery, etc. In other words, your written chronology can play a vital role in making or breaking your case before a jury. So, to make sure your chronology of events is on point, follow the tips below.
Your attorney will use the raw data from the chronology to build your case in front of a jury, in court documents, and legal correspondence. Rectifying basic mistakes about the "where," "when," and "why" of an event can weaken your case in the eyes of both the judge and jury.
You're advised to get everything organized before penning the chronology. Scrutinize all available documents (cell phone bills, email files, bank records, datebook, meeting notes, tax returns, phone conversation transcripts, etc.) before you sit down to write.
Analyze every word and try to read between the lines on every page. Writing the chronology will be simple once you have all these records organized and the information fully extracted!
Understand What Information Your Lawyer Needs
Depending on what your case is about, the information needed by your attorney will vary. It's essential to have a detailed discussion to know what they need from you in the chronology document. For instance,
- In a divorce settlement, the basics include marriage date, cohabitation date, birthdays of children (if any), date of separation, date of buying/selling of any significant assets (house, car, etc.);
- For a land boundary dispute, your lawyer will first need the property acquisition dates of all involved parties. Other necessary info includes previous ownership details (names, dates, etc.) for each piece of land, the date of putting up a fence or boundary around a disputed area, etc.
- During a contract standoff, important information includes the dates of all meetings and phone calls between the involved parties, the dates any contracts were drafted and/or signed on, the exact circumstances under which a contract was signed or agreed upon, etc.
Your attorney won't be able to do much with a vague description of events. Be very specific!
For example, don't make claims like "I always put family before career." Instead, say something along the lines of “In March 2020, I took a 20% pay cut so I could be home by 3 PM every day to tend to my children when they got back from school.”
Fill the Gaps
You may not have every paper record available. Moreover, remembering exact dates for every event is improbable unless you have a photographic memory. In such cases, you can tell your lawyer the approximate time when something happened. For instance, you can say that something happened a couple of weeks before you left that job at XYZ Company in mid-July 2018.