Your efforts at calming your client should follow various tacks, as you never know what will work. Here are some ideas to try:
- Remind your client that there’s always re-direct. Cross-examination is not the last word: remind your client that you’ll be able to re-direct (or conduct direct if your client has been called as a hostile witness). Re-direct is a safety net. Your client need not get his or her testimony letter perfect during cross-examination, nor does he or she need to make speeches or volunteer information to fill gaps. Let him or her know that you’ll do any necessary repair work during re-direct. Repeat this until your client believes it.
- Tell your client that a bit of nervousness is a good thing. Let your client know that nervous witnesses are good witnesses: the jury sympathizes with their anxiety and will listen more carefully to them. This may not be entirely true, but it will make the client less nervous!
- Fix the facts in your client’s mind. Drive home key facts so that your client knows them well, but don’t rehearse your client so often that his or her testimony sounds rehearsed.
- Remind your client that you’ll be there. Your client needs to know that you’ll be monitoring the cross-examination carefully, protecting him or her by objections and deciding what needs to be left in or left out on re-direct.
- Use dry runs. Before your trial, have your client visit the courtroom where the case will be tried to observe other trials. If you know who the trial judge will be, encourage your client to observe the judge’s habits and mannerisms in unrelated cases. In your office, conduct a mock cross-examination with your client to lessen the fear of the unknown.
- Try physical relaxation techniques. Encourage your client to use effective relaxation methods such as deep breathing, meditation, and exercise. But discourage relaxation through liquor or tranquilizers.
A calm client on cross-examination can be key to the success of your case. So as you’re busy with trial preparation, don’t forget that one of your most important tasks is to keep your client relaxed and focused.
For much more on preparing your client and other favorable witnesses for cross-examination, turn to CEB’s Effective Direct and Cross-Examination, chapter 6.
Related CEB blog posts:
- Prepping Your Client for Cross-Examination
- Checklist for Preparing Your Witness for Trial
- Mindfulness for Lawyers
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