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Calming a Client Before Cross

469790631For many people—especially avid courtroom drama watchers—the anticipation of being cross-examined is terrifying. If your client is one of these people, try these calming techniques.

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:

© The Regents of the University of California, 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

6 Responses

  1. Excellent article! The six points discussed in the article are of critical importance in the preparation of witnesses for trial. As a Labor Arbitrator I ever so often observes witnesses testifying under cross examination, who clearly were not prepared for the adversarial nature of cross examination. Many “good cases” are lost due to inadequate preparation of witnesses, albeit for cross examination or testimony in chief/direct.

  2. Reblogged this on jscheepers777 and commented:
    Excellent article! The six points discussed in the article are of critical importance in the preparation of witnesses for trial. As a Labor Arbitrator I ever so often observes witnesses testifying under cross examination, who clearly were not prepared for the adversarial nature of cross examination. Many “good cases” are lost due to inadequate preparation of witnesses, albeit for cross examination or testimony in chief/direct.

  3. No, No, No, No, No.

    First, in preparing any witness you have be condescending. Remember — YOU know the facts, not the client.

    Second, be sure your client knows how much trouble he / she will be in if he/she says something wrong. “Sure, I can try to correct the problem on re-direct, but once the damage is done….”

    Third, be sure to grill your client on appropriate attire. For a man: wear a suit, but not a fancy suit, just an everyday suit. If he does not know the difference, or only has one suit, just chuckle and shake your head and ask him if he has any cousins he can borrow a suit from.

    For women: wear a dress, but not a fancy dress, just an ordinary dress, only don’t look frumpy. Try to look like Julianna Margulies, only don’t try to look like you’re dressing up for anything special.

    Fourth. Explain to the client that if he or she shows any signs of weakness the jury will be able to tell immediately. .

    It helps to go over the testimony with your client 20-30 times until its memorized. Be sure that if the client is asked whether you went over the testimony with him, he answers, “no.”

    Now THAT’s how you prepare a client.

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