How to Prep Your Expert to Give Their Best Possible Testimony
Here at Orion Expert Network (OEN), we like to provide a constant stream of up-to-date information and analysis, designed to help our clients and experts succeed prior to and at trial and beyond. [Once per week], you will find a new blog post at orionexpertnetwork.com, providing information and advice on all aspects of the litigation and expert witness worlds.
Today’s post features OEN’s top six tips for experts about to take part in a deposition. Please let us know your thoughts, and feel free to add your own tips in the comments!
As an expert witness, the most effective way for you to provide excellent service to your client at all times is to maintain a laser-like focus on the issue or task at hand.
First and foremost, you should always be focused on telling the truth to the best of your ability. To do so, pay close attention to the questions opposing counsel asks you. If you don’t quite understand what you’re being asked, or if you don’t accept the premise of a question, don’t hesitate to say so.
And remember: it’s okay for you to say “I don’t know” when that is the honest answer.
Finally, be sure to fully think about the question before you answer it, so you can be as clear as possible.
Many depositions involve dozens or even hundreds of documents, adding up to hundreds or even thousands of pages. You should review in full detail any documents an attorney has made clear they will be asking you questions about. Although accommodations will likely be made for the review of documents as necessary during depositions, you won’t be able to provide a sufficiently precise and well-informed answer without looking over such documents beforehand.
Your prior review of these documents will also give you a useful perspective on the relative importance of information you may be asked for during the deposition. Many times, if an attorney is unable to get the answers they need on a major point, they will attempt to throw off the expert with a barrage of aggressive questions on a relatively minor point. If you are aware that such information is of less importance, any attorney hijinks are less likely to detract from your performance during the deposition.
As an expert witness, your strongest asset in a deposition is the knowledge you have of the relevant subject matter, which is often vastly superior to the present attorneys’.
Keep this in mind as you prepare, and try to anticipate what opposing counsel may attempt to throw at you to lessen your advantage here. For example, attorneys may arrange information chronologically in timeline form, or create charts and diagrams to present information in a certain way. If you prepare with these possibilities in mind, you’ll be better-able to push back against attorneys presenting information in an untruthful or misleading way.
Stay In Your Lane
Although sassy and smart-alecky witnesses are a staple of police procedurals like Law & Order, they’re not as beloved in the real-life legal world. Remember that you’re not a lawyer and to stay in your lane! This means you shouldn’t worry about things like why opposing counsel is asking a particular question, or allow yourself to become argumentative or emotional if the attorney tries to upset you or throw you off of your game.
If you happen to feel bullied or harassed by a lawyer, it likely means they’re upset by your strong performance, as they’re not getting the answers they want and need. Congratulations on a job well done!
You can’t be an effective witness for your client if the judge and jury do not like you. We’ve already covered being honest, which is the number-one way to stay on their sides. But you should also strive to be respectful and answer civilly, even when opposing counsel is striking an unpleasant tone or being rude to you, and especially if they seem unprepared. No one likes an expert witness who rubs their superior knowledge in a faltering attorney’s face.
Oh, and if and when you are interrupted (and you will be), don’t get flustered. Wait for the interruption to end, and then politely ask to finish your statement.
As high-stress and anxiety-provoking as a deposition may seem, never forget at any point that you are a human being with basic needs that require your attention. Don’t hesitate to ask for a recess for a bathroom or snack break if you need one, even if it falls outside any previously agreed break schedule (when you gotta go, you gotta go!).
And remember that you’re not subjected to any sort of ticking clock during a deposition and that you can take your time to answer questions fully and accurately. If you need to go back and correct a mistake in your answers, or if you need your memory refreshed about a particular issue, just say so. The attorneys present will be happy to assist you.
If you or your firm have expert witness needs on any type of case, call OEN today at 617–528–0055 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org for help putting together your expert witness team. You do the rest. Let us worry about the experts.