Do you have a hearing, deposition, or trial coming up soon?
Will your experts and client(s) be expected to provide testimony?
As an attorney, your job entails research, planning, and preparing yourself for impending proceedings, but it also includes preparing your client(s) and experts for their big day in court. It’s important to keep in mind that, often times, clients and/ or experts may not be as well-versed in legal procedure as you are. Providing guidance prior to upcoming court events is imperative to developing a winning strategy, inside and outside of the courtroom.
Here are a few tips Select Court Reporters has put together to help your clients and experts shine while providing testimony:
1. Only answer the question asked.
Clients and experts can and do have a habit of overexplaining, and this is something an opposing attorney will rely on to get them talking. Talking can turn into rambling, which in turn, can have a detrimental impact on the case you’ve presented. By training your clients and experts to answer only the question asked in a short and direct manner, you will avoid long-winded tirades that can (and often will) contradict your side of the story.
2. Speak clearly and concisely.
Clients and experts are often nervous during court proceedings. It’s an overwhelming experience for them and they have every right to feel uncomfortable. By developing a strategy that assists them in maintaining their composure, you invariably help them come across as more reliable and trustworthy. Witnesses who mumble and seem self-conscious can be misinterpreted by a judge or jury as shifty and dishonest. Help your clients with their enunciation, tone of voice, speech octaves, and inflection. Remind them to remain calm and to speak as clearly as possible while providing their testimony.
3. Dress the part.
This may seem like a given, but working in the industry, we’ve seen plenty of witnesses show up in less than respectable attire. Believe it or not, coaching your clients and experts to dress their best will not only help them show respect to the court, the jury, and opposing counsel, it will also provide a sense of professionalism and decorum. A person who cares about how they dress – who spends a little time selecting their outfit – sends a message to those around him / her. That message says: “I care about who I am and what I have to say.” Those that dress well simply seem more trustworthy and those who are trustworthy are more inclined to sway a judge or jury.
4. Be respectful.
Clients can get emotional and this can cause them to become volatile and irate. Remind your clients that judges notice everything. They are trained to evaluate and analyze the behavior of the people in their courtroom. Disrespect – whether intentional or not – can have a dire effect on the outcome of a particular testimony. Guide your client prior to court proceedings—give them advice and remind them that, by keeping their emotions in check, they will ultimately provide more believable testimony. The court cares about the facts, not how your client feels about the facts.
5. Listen to the question and take time to think about your answer.
This is a big one! It also goes hand in hand with numbers 2 and 4 above. Clients and experts can sometimes get riled up and confused during court proceedings. It is important that they take a moment to listen and think about questions posed before they shout out an answer. Being too quick on the draw can end badly, especially if a client or expert offers an answer to a question that was not asked. Again, this can offer support and insight to opposing counsel that may not have been there had the client and/ or expert taken a moment to understand the question. Remind them that, if the question confuses them, they are allowed to clarify what the other attorney meant. It is better that they get clear on a question than fire off a rapid response that has nothing to do with the topic at hand.
Employing these tips will make testimony easier for your clients and experts. Moreover, spending a little time coaching them will provide a sense of relief, as well as trust. There is nothing more important in an attorney-client or attorney-expert relationship than trust. It is the backbone of your business and having it can lead to new work, new clients, and an improved reputation in the industry.
Select Court Reporters is proud to provide exemplary court reporting services to attorneys and firms in Central Florida, including but not limited to, Orlando, Winter Park, Maitland, Oviedo, Winter Springs, Apopka, Kissimmee, etc. Contact us today to discuss your priorities and legal support needs: (407) 977 – 7725 or firstname.lastname@example.org.