That is definitely what I do - draft my closing first, with all the law, and all the evidence I anticipate getting or that I have, and then craft my crosses and direct if applicable to adduce that evidence.
I have never done small claims court, but even in a crazy provincial court trial, I will never ask an open-ended question where I am not confident what the response will be, or where I know it will not hurt me whatever it is. I think this is different for the Crown than for defence because yes, the Crown may have reluctant witnesses with no statement. Any witness I call, I have vetted, and when I am crossing Crown witnesses, even if there was no statement, I've had the benefit of their direct. And maybe I'm about to ambush the Crown with their texts or something. I would never be flying completely blind for a cross. The less I know, the tighter and more leading my questions are. I don't know how this translates to small claims.
I will add that sometimes the best cross is no cross. If a reluctant witness completely hung themself on direct, a dramatic "I have no questions for this witness, Your Honour" is very effective. Don't give them a chance to rehabilitate themself because you feel you have to cross, or you want to make hay and indulge yourself over all the stupid things they said in direct. Likewise, if they start hanging themself on cross, you might not have to finish every single question on your sheet because you have enough, and knowing when to quit and sit down is an important skill that will impress the judge.
Very unimportant to most firms. Some NY firms care about undergrad grades, but no Canadian firms put much weight on them. They never even came up for me during the 1L recruit, and my grades weren’t stellar.
The exception may be if you’re relying on a STEM degree to open IP doors.
During the 2L hiring process (formal and otherwise), how important are undergrad grades? I ask because I had one semester in which I performed very poorly in three courses because I had some background (documented) medical issues I was dealing with + family issues. I anticipate that some doors will be closed, but I'm trying to calibrate my expectations right now by getting a sense of how many doors are closed. Also, these grades are an aberration in the context of my whole undergrad and my LS grades are okay (top 40-35% in 1L).
Yeah, sometimes when you're in the wild world of provincial court trials, with a reluctant witness who has never given a statement, I'm forced to ask questions I don't know the answer to. But be aware that you're doing it, know that it can blow up on you, and be prepared to live with it.
For all the bad mouthing small claims court can get, I did find that if you came in with a serious case and representation on both sides the court just loved you for it. On two separate occasions I ran 2 day trials, complete with experts. I think it was just so different than what they usually see the court just took everything very seriously.