When people think of the legal system, they think about facts and irrefutable forensic evidence. But the truth is, cases are frequently won and lost not based on facts but based on the witnesses’ ability to communicate those facts credibly. As a result, establishing credibility during your deposition is critical. To litigate successfully, we recommend the following steps:
Act as a guide, not as a preacher
Throughout the educational process, most people encounter the phrase “show, don’t tell.” Although it is most commonly used in high school English classes, it is also applicable to the legal system. Whether you’re arguing your case before a jury or taking a deposition in front of opposing counsel, it’s important to consider your communication strategy. Numerous studies have shown that human beings prefer to draw their own conclusions, rather than hear declarative statements. As an attorney, your role is to support your witness by acting as a guide for your audience. Ensure that you provide the opportunity for your witness to highlight the merits of your argument organically.
Tell a strategic story
Every case should be viewed as an unfolding narrative. Stories exist at the heart of all litigation, and as the attorney, you are responsible for reconstructing key events. Through your questioning, your witness will bring their story to life. It’s important to develop a strategy that hits on specific details, supporting your case. Outlining all the facts and contextualizing them within the case allows your audience to feel a sense of investment in your position.
Focus on consistency in content
Even if you believe a witness will immediately appear credible, savvy attorneys will pay attention to building and maintaining credibility over the duration of a case. Each statement should be accurate and consistent. To accomplish this, you may need to engage in extensive witness preparation.
Many witnesses are unsure what to expect from depositions and trials. This can lead to confusion and cause panic during testimony. When preparing the witness, be sure to communicate that brevity is an asset. Testimony is not a conversation, and without effective preparation, witnesses may feel compelled to fill the silence with unnecessary details that hurt your argument.
Establishing credibility is a process that begins the moment a case is filed and continues throughout the lifespan of the case. Remember, depositions are an important battleground where you can tell your client’s story and establish the facts necessary to communicate credibly at trial!