Connect with The Perfect Witness Follow us on Facebook Follow us on our Blog Follow us on LinkedIn Follow us on Twitter

Category Archives: Uncategorized

Rule of the Room Spotlight #3: Use the Purposeful Pause

7610100582_39459f8851This is the third in our ongoing series about our Rules of the Room. Don’t forget to check out the first and second posts if you missed them. This week, we’ll be discussing “The Purposeful Pause,” one of the most important techniques to surviving a deposition.

A deposition is not like a normal conversation, and it’s vital that your client understands this. The normal rhythms of conversation do not apply, and failing to see that can lead your witness right into a trap. When asked a question, instruct your witness to pause for a breath and take that time to think before answering. This technique leads to a number of advantages.

1: It allows you time to object

If a particular question falls outside of the witness’s function in appearing at the deposition (especially in the case of an expert witness,) the Purposeful Pause will give you time to object to the question. This applies to the whole range of objection-worthy questions, and if your witness properly uses the Purposeful Pause, he or she will not reveal information that is either improper or outside the scope of their expertise.

2: It allows the witness to consider the full question

By exercising the Purposeful Pause, your witness will have time to absorb the full question, as opposed to hastily responding to the question that he or she expected. If a witness is too quick to answer, he or she may misunderstand precisely what was asked and open the door to possibilities that opposing counsel may not have yet considered.

3: It allows the witness to take control of the rhythm of the deposition

Lawyers know that the deposition process can be daunting for the uninitiated, and many will not hesitate to take advantage of that fact. They may adopt a pushy demeanor and ask rapid-fire questions in an attempt to confuse the witness. By learning the Purposeful Pause, your witness will have an effective “parry” in his or her arsenal, negating the effect that this technique may have on him or her.

The Purposeful Pause is one of the most basic and most effective tools for giving a successful deposition, and is the foundation upon which a credible defensive posture can be built.

Check in in two weeks for the next Rule of the Room spotlight: Rule of the Room #4: Only answer the question asked.

If you’re ready to give the Perfect Witness program a test, email us for your free attorney review session with the entire program!

3 Easy Tips to Help your Witness Create a Credible Demeanor

If your witness’ credibility has been impugned, the impact of their testimony goes from helping your case to having a negligible impact at best and destroying it at worst. And it doesn’t even have to be because of anything negative that your witness actually did or said; just the appearance of impropriety or ineptitude can be enough to sway a jury.

That’s why it’s important that you work with your witness to help establish a credible mien and avoid common pitfalls that can lose them a jury’s confidence. Start with these three tips.

1: Inconsistency is the same as lying.

Make sure your witness is prepared to give a cogent and precise testimony. If they flub minor details, it can mean major damage for your case. (See Rule of the Room #1: Never Lie.) A witness caught in a lie can look forward to shattered credibility, a destroyed case, and criminal charges on top of that. So make sure your witness doesn’t stumble into a lie, even unintentionally.

2: Be confident and approachable.

Your witness is your expert on a certain facet of the facts of your case, so he or she should be able to speak intelligently about it. Tongue-tied responses and nervous or furtive mannerisms can give a jury pause when considering the weight of your witness’ testimony later.

3: Stay level-headed!

The courtroom can be a high-pressure environment, especially for those unfamiliar with it. Your witness should be comfortable answering questions in that setting and prepared emotionally for the questions opposing counsel may ask. If a witness becomes overly or inappropriately emotional during question, it may prompt juries to question the witness’ motivation for testifying.

Prepare your witnesses with The Perfect Witness

The Perfect Witness’ online 1-hour course will give your witnesses the resources they need to give an effective, credible deposition. Learn more today and get your free attorney review session by clicking here.

3 Tips for Training a Confident Expert Witness

Expert witnesses exist to lend academic credibility to your case. If your expert witness performs poorly, you not only miss out on that credibility—you lose even more. Use these five tips to make sure that your expert witnesses are prepared to face both deposition and a jury.

1.    Make sure the expert knows why you have retained them.

When you call an expert witness, you are calling on their reputation in their field: invoking their authority on their domain on knowledge as it relates to your case.

Don’t let opposing counsel trick them into calling their credibility into question by taking the line of questioning outside the witness’s comfort area. If this happens, the witness should say that they cannot answer because they lack the sufficient knowledge.

Along the same lines, the opposition may also try to get your expert witnesses to tell stories that conflict. Each of your witnesses should be clear on exactly why you have called on their expertise, and decline to answer any questions that fall outside of that scope.

2.    This is a courtroom, not a classroom.

By nature of their extensive knowledge, many expert witnesses tend to be teachers, professors, and academics. These are people who feel a natural drive to inform. That drive absolutely must be suppressed in a court room environment.

Teach your witnesses to answer the question, and only the question. They should not try to “educate” opposing counsel. If a question contains poor science or demonstrates a misunderstanding of an issue at hand, your witness should make a note of the fact that the question is poorly or confusingly worded, and is unanswerable. They shouldn’t attempt to assist opposing counsel in rewording the question.

3.    Win over the judge and the jury

Your witness should appear at ease, relatable, approachable, and in control at all times. Prepare your witness for tricks opposing counsel may employ to attempt to gain control of the rhythm of the questions and answers. Eye contact is also important. Teach your witness to maintain eye contact with whomever is cross examining them, even when formulating an answer to the question. This will inspire an impression trustworthiness and certainty.

The witness should not be bated into aggression, and attempt to remain level-headed with all of their responses. In short, the witness should be trained to prevent themselves from being tricked into appearing unlikable or dishonest.

An expert witness is good, but a well-trained expert witness is invaluable.

We hope that these tips will help you as you prepare your experts for testimony, for more in-depth information, click here to claim your free attorney review of the entire The Perfect Witness witness training program!

Don’t Let Nerves Destroy Your Case

So many of the pitfalls we experience in depositions occur because Don’t Let Nerves Destroy Your Caseour client or witness is nervous or intimidated. And, when you think about it, that’s pretty understandable. Bright lights, disapproving glares. To some, the deposition room may feel like something out of a spy movie. As litigators, we’ve become relatively immune to a lot of the pressures that arise in these situations, but we must always remember to be sensitive of our clients’ possible inexperience.

That’s a big part of why we do what we do here at The Perfect Witness. The number one cause of all fear could arguably be said to be uncertainty, and we firmly believe that careful preparation goes a long way to achieving results. When we give shape to our fears, we are better equipped to face them.

But that doesn’t mean that if we describe the room and the process to the client, that all of those nerves related to depositions will just evaporate. We also have to inform them of how it all works, and how they can approach a deposition most effectively. Above all, we also need to ensure we give the client practical, useful advice for how to cope with opposing counsel, the questions they ask, and the manner in which they ask them.

Loose Lips Sink Ships.

Hold up! Before you object, we’re definitely not counseling perjury here! Instead, what we mean is we must emphasize to our client that it’s very important that they approach each question with care and deliberation.

Here, we highlight Rule of the Room #3: Use the Purposeful Pause. Everything that our client says at a deposition will enter the record, and by pausing a moment before beginning their answer, our client can make certain that they, (1) fully understand the question, and (2) answer that question (and only that question!) effectively, completely, and clearly.

The Purposeful Pause also establishes a rhythm for the deposition that is more beneficial to the deposed. If opposing counsel is more… ahem… aggressive, in their approach to their line of questioning, the Pause will allow our client to take back some control of the room and may eliminate the feeling of “backpedaling” or “off-guardedness” that the opposing counsel may be trying to elicit.

The Question and the Answer, and not much else.

A deposition is not a conversation. This is something that needs to be absolutely clear to the client, and forms the basis for two more Rules of the Room: Only Answer the Question Asked and Never Guess. Remind your client that it’s never a good idea to volunteer information outside of the scope of the question. In a similar vein, as a deposition is about the facts, a guess is never appropriate. A client should feel comfortable saying “I don’t know.”

The client may feel the pressure to provide the most complete information he or she can, and they need your help to understand that it is not beneficial to their situation to offer information that either wasn’t asked for or has the potential to be inaccurate.

The Tools To Succeed.

If we work to not only inform our client of what to expect, but how to best respond to it, we can give them the means to mount an effective deposition defense and work towards a positive resolution.

To learn more about how The Perfect Witness can prepare your witnesses for deposition, request your free attorney review.