Preparation Is Key to a Valuable Witness Statement. Does Your Key Fit?
When you look back on law school, whether it was nine months ago or nine years ago, your memories are probably lost within a fog of long nights and an ocean of coffee. Between the endless studying, copious amounts of information, and countless hours of prep time, it’s amazing you survived.
But you did, so (yay!) good for you. However, after graduation, and after the pats on the back and numerous name plates with “Attorney at Law” engraved on them, you eventually have to put all of that knowledge and studying to the test.
In the real world all that studying may have been for naught if you can’t apply it to your case. Sure, law school may have prepped you for the motions, but did it truly prepare you for how to get from point A to point B? It taught you that evidence and witness statements are crucial for a strong case, but did it teach you how to secure those assets? How to prepare a witness for a deposition? What about for trial?
If not, your case may be over before it even begins.
Witness Prep to Secure a Strong Case
An expert witness can be crucial to your case as they will help explain the matter at hand to a jury or judge, as well as be able to shed doubt on the opposing counsel’s remarks. However, this only works if the “expert” is not only credible but also able to show that credibility in court. This is where your preparation skills will come into play. In order for your witness to give testimony that cannot be rebutted, before they takes the stand you’ll need to prep them by doing the following:
Although an expert witness should know all about the matter at hand, the opposing counsel will do his best to trip them up in order to discredit their testimony. Hypothetical questioning, posing “if therefore then” statements, and ambiguous taunts are only a few techniques used to confuse expert witnesses.
However, you can prevent these discrediting tactics from working by educating the witness on how to properly respond to such lines of questioning. Just because a witness is an expert doesn’t mean that they’re meant to be able to understand complicated (or convoluted) questions. Therefore, you should let your witness know that it is okay, and in some cases preferable to simply respond to such inquiries with a simple “I do not understand the question” or a request that the question be rephrased. Not only will this give them time to think of the answer, but also time for you to object if necessary.
Limit their scope
One of the roles of an expert witness is to teach the judge and jury in order for them to better understand the matter. It’s easy for the witness to get carried away and begin to answer questions that weren’t even asked. Not only can this waste time and confuse the jury, but it can also affect your case if his additional explanations contradict your theory of the case. This is why it is essential to rehearse control and make sure your witness knows not to help the opposing counsel by giving too much extraneous information. Just answer the questions asked in a straightforward manner.
Testifying as an expert witness can be extremely intimidating. The witness has to demonstrate their intelligence and mastery of the field, but must also not let pride get in the way of the facts. This is sometimes easier said than done. However, by helping the witness polish their testimony you can ensure that they won’t go off-topic or claim an opinion as fact. You can do this by making sure your witness knows that they doesn’t have to answer every question. If they don’t know the answer, make sure they know to say so—not guess. If your witness guesses without stating that it isn’t a fact, than it may still be entered into evidence and the opposing counsel can use his guess to discredit the entire testimony. Make sure your expert witness either refuses to answer on the grounds that his expertise doesn’t extend to that particular question, or that he notes that his answer is an opinion only.
The Finer Points of Witness Trial Strategy
If you need help prepping your witness for trial, for a deposition, or even for a video interview, then Casamo and Associates can help—or refer you to someone better able to answer your questions.
We understand how difficult it can be to keep everything straight during a trial. Don’t allow your hard work to go to waste because your witness wasn’t prepared to take the stand. Call us today and we’ll help you prep to ensure a smooth and confident testimony at the deposition table or the courtroom.