witness preparation varies by country


Posted on February 21, 2016  

              How to prepare for the witness stand


My wife’s divorce lawyer wants to take my deposition. Is there any way for me to prepare?

The main purpose of preparing you as a witness is to allow you to feel more comfortable about the process. Being a witness is not like sitting around talking with your friends. Your job is to listen to and then to answer the question that is asked. And then stop. Then you wait for the next question.

Here are the most important things to do. First, carefully listen to each question. Then repeat the question in your head. If you cannot repeat the entire question, word for word, ask the lawyer to repeat or rephrase the question. If the question has more than one part, here, too, you must ask the lawyer to rephrase the question.

Once you have repeated the question in your head and once you understand the questions, then, and only then, should you start to formulate your answer. Then, and only then, should you orally state the answer.

You get no points for speed. This is not a race. Talk slowly. If the other lawyer gets you going into a fast back and forth, then bing, bang and boom: You are putting yourself at risk to say something you are likely to regret.

No matter how many times you practice your answers, they will come out differently. That’s fine, so long as you are telling the truth.

You will be asked to answer specific questions, many of which might be answered with just a “yes” or “no”. If your lawyer wants you to answer more questions about a topic those questions will be asked at some point. It is not your job to ask questions.

Don’t try to figure out what the other lawyer is trying to get you to say. Indeed, that lawyer might have no idea what to ask next.

Don’t try to understand the technical arguments that might be made by the lawyers about “hearsay”, “no basis”, and so forth. That’s lawyer stuff – not witness stuff.

During practice, your lawyer may have said certain questions would be asked in a particular order at trial. But that may not happen. That might be the result of how you answered a prior question, because the judge asked for a clarification or for other reasons. Don’t worry because those questions will eventually be asked later by the prepared lawyer.

If you don’t follow these simple rules, if you don’t insist on practicing with your lawyer, then you’ll feel like you like a plucked chicken that got fried on a hot tar road.