A Winning Tip

A Winning Tip is jointly written by Dr. Noelle Nelson and Diane Rumbaugh. Dr. Nelson is a clinical psychologist, author, and consultant. Ms. Rumbaugh is a PR consultant and author. Together they provide helpful advice on trial proceedings.

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  Your client is a rational, mature businessperson. You expect them to do well at their upcoming deposition. After all, they have plenty of real-world experience, and of course, you go over the facts of the case with them as well as some deposition basics. You are subsequently horrified when they waffle, or get angry, or are evasive, or volunteer or do any of the multitude of the other communication sins that constitute poor testimony.…
During these unusual times, most jury trials are out of the question, but depositions are still being taken, and witnesses therefore still need help to testify at their best. One of the keys to a successful deposition is a witness’ attitude. Help your witness by offering the following suggestions:  1. Tell the truth No matter how painful, scary, or awkward it may be, tell the truth. Your attorney can deal with anything, as long as…
You’re gearing up for trial, you hardly have the time or patience to deal with an angry witness. Yet there you are, in the unenviable position of having to prepare a witness who is angry for any number of reasons: – The witness is a client, angry that this matter couldn’t be settled or that it even is in litigation at all. – The witness is furious at being “required” to testify. – The witness…
Clients dislike surprises, especially unpleasant ones. This holds true for small surprises, such as finding out at the last minute that a meeting was rescheduled, and for large surprises, such as finding out that the worst possible jury has just been impaneled for their trial. Every case has its “surprises” – aka problems; some can be anticipated, others cannot. In your eagerness to maintain credibility and be an effective problem-solver for your clients, you may…
When you’ve had a hand in making a decision, you’re that much more likely to go along with it. Jurors are no different. Questions in cross-examination that allow jurors to arrive at the unmistakable, inescapable, conclusion you want them to, are far more effective than ramming the conclusion down their throats or risking a sympathetic answer from opposing counsel’s witness. For example: The lawyer is cross-examining a lay witness at the scene of a bus-pedestrian…
There’s a world of difference between assertive expert testimony and defensive expert testimony, where your expert is essentially arguing with opposing counsel. Now, your expert may believe he or she has every good reason to argue with opposing counsel, as in, opposing counsel is dead wrong. But arguing with opposing counsel is never a wise strategy, and often a road to discrediting your expert.      Your experts do best if they don’t consider the question an…