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Being an Effective Witness

June 30, 2015

Giving your testimony is one of the most important events that will occur in your case. While your Dallas family lawyer will be doing her absolute best to represent your interests, who can be a better advocate in support of your case than you?

Appear Confident and Calm

Witnesses often place an inordinate amount of concern regarding their physical appearance. While everyone should agree that arriving at court unkempt and inappropriately attired is unacceptable, the issue of appearance is actually more subtle. Being well-rested and relaxed will have a bigger impact on your appearance to the finder of fact than your hairstyle or the brand of clothes you wear. The most important thing that you can do to “look good” is to be prepared.

If you prepare to testify by gaining an understanding of the legal issues and relevant facts, it will carry over to your appearance. You will appear confident, calm and rested and your testimony will flow naturally. As a consequence, your testimony will be more credible.

Understand What You’re Trying to Prove

Many witnesses believe that the best way to prepare for an examination is to attempt to anticipate all of the questions that they will be asked and then rehearse their specific responses. Unfortunately, this is the worst way to achieve a positive result. As the witness tries to go through a “mental script”, answers will invariably be stilted and will appear to be rehearsed. As a result, the testimony seems at best insincere or potentially dishonest.

The better course for you is to learn from your counsel the actual legal issues in your case, both those raised by you and those of the opposing party. This will include the evidence needed to prove the elements of your case and those needed by your opposition to prove theirs. This does not mean that you will have to become a legal scholar. Your goal should simply be to understand what you are trying to prove and what the other side is trying to prove.

In working with your attorney in preparing for giving testimony, do not be afraid to ask questions. Your Dallas family law attorney will gain valuable insight into your view of the case and will further understand what areas you can discuss to better prepare you.

If you achieve a basic level of understanding about your case, then you will be able to handle any question posed to you. Your answers will be more fluid because you will not be hunting for the “right” answer. You will further be a better resource for your attorney, because you will know what information is relevant to your case. Likewise, your communications with your attorney will be more focused, take less time and will ultimately save you money.

Listen Carefully to the Questions

Even if you have achieved a thorough understanding of your case, you still have a tremendous potential to do your case harm when you testify. The mechanics of an examination are not like those of a regular conversation. You should listen very carefully to the question being asked and answer only that question. Don’t tell the Court how to build a watch, if the question posed is “What time is it?”

The examining attorney is attempting to tell his client’s story through your words. If that attorney is doing a good job, you should feel like your side of the story is not being told. Don’t panic. You will have the opportunity to tell your story when your attorney examines you. When you are responding to questions from the opposing attorney, do not be argumentative, evasive, or recalcitrant. You will hurt your own credibility and, therefore, your case.

Communicate with Your Attorney

Remember: short, direct answers delivered from a calm, compliant witness have the greatest impact in persuading the judge or jury. Gaining insight from your lawyer on the legal issues of your case will help you be a better partner with in preparing your case and will make you a more effective witness during a deposition or trial.

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