One of the most critical elements of a successful trial is to prevent any surprises during the hearing. Experienced lawyers know this, which is why they always carefully prepare everything, including statements, documents, evidence, witnesses, and motions. However, another element an experienced lawyer never forgets is client preparation before taking the stand. Below are some of their most essential groundwork tips for preparing your client to take the stand.
Aligning The Client With the Case Theme
It is vital to keep to the theme of your case throughout the trial. It would help if you also communicated it clearly to your client so they can understand what you want to accomplish with the theme, even when questioning them on the stand. If the client is unprepared, they might deviate from what you are trying to prove while taking the stand.
Make Sure the Client’s Testimony Remains Consistent
The next step in the client’s preparation is to ensure they study all the material from their depositions, testimonies, or previous proceedings. Send them the information at least a few weeks before the trial to ensure they have enough time to read and memorize everything.
Stress to your client that they must go through this material at least three times to ensure that whatever they say on the stand corresponds and remains consistent with what they have previously said. Warn them that you don’t want them to come across as a liar or someone with a flawed memory to the jury.
Direct Examination Preparation
The direct examination can be a stressful part for any client, and it requires special preparation. Therefore, experienced lawyers set at least two days aside for preparing their clients, even in more straightforward cases.
Ensure the client isn’t disturbed during the preparation process and that the lawyer who will direct the exam on the stand does the preparation, helping to enhance communication between the two.
When multiple clients must take the stand, the best is to prepare them separately to accommodate their different attention levels.
Do A Case Overview
Start by giving the client a complete overview of the case and reminding them of the theme and goals you want to accomplish with your questioning and their testimony. The client must understand that this is a laborious process, but it can ensure an excellent trial outcome when practiced correctly.
Get To The Substance
Then, as you practice the client’s exam for the stand by going through the various subjects, you want to let them know that they mustn’t sound too rehearsed.
Therefore, avoid giving them a list of questions that they will memorize the answers to; the idea is for them to understand the answers they provide on the stand.
Furthermore, you don’t want any sensitive issues to emerge in the witness box, so this is the right time to address these.
Finally, if the client is concerned about any part of the testimony, now is the time to address it. You may need to help them formulate an appropriate answer for some questions, but make sure it is in their words and not yours.
At this stage, you should also let your client know of any weaknesses you notice in how they respond to questions and ask them to correct being too loud, too soft, too fidgety, etc.
Familiarize Your Client With the Trial Exhibits
You don’t want your client to look at an exhibit as if they have never seen it before, so at this stage, make sure they know about any documents you will present during their testimony and their importance to the trial’s outcome.
Prepare for the Cross Exam
The next step is to prepare for the cross-exam. You need to anticipate the questions opposing counsel will ask your client, which are not always so obvious. Discuss the possible questions with your client because the difference between a prepared and unprepared client is the difference between how confident, relaxed, and believable they appear on the stand.
Under no circumstances do you want an unnerved client on the stand, so anticipate any questions, even trick questions, and prepare your client.
Record Your Client
A video recording of the dress rehearsal you can watch with your client will help you see their good and bad points. Then, go over it together, offering constructive criticism where needed.
Trial Dos and Don’ts
These are some general dos and don’ts your client should know about testifying.
- Warn them about the dress code for court – neat and conservative.
- Discuss the seating arrangements at the courthouse – you could even take them there beforehand.
- During the testimony, they must be themselves, use familiar words, look the jury in the eye, be polite and respectful, and speak clearly.
- They must avoid getting angry.
- They must listen carefully to questions and never guess an answer if they don’t know it.
- If they haven’t understood a question, they must ask to have it clarified.
- Finally, they must always tell the truth.
As a trial approaches, you must ensure your client is prepared to face the judge and jury calmly and informed. Use the tips above to prepare your clients like experienced lawyers do, helping to get justice for your clients every time.