July 2012

The Ten Rules of Powerful Witness Preparation

Family Advocate
Daniel I. Small

Not so long ago, persuading people that they needed extensive preparation before testifying in a legal proceeding was a battle. Many confident, articulate executives were convinced they could just “go in and tell my story,” and they were insulted by the notion that they needed some lawyer to prepare them. Too many experienced lawyers didn’t push back.

Then came an explosion of high profile lawsuits and investigations, and with them a parade of highly successful executives who proved to be very bad witnesses. Gates, Stewart, Libby, Kozlowski, Lay––the list goes on. Now, people faced with the prospect of being a witness may wonder if there is some reason this happened and if it could happen to them. The answers are “yes” and “yes.” It happened because people failed to understand that they were entering a different and dangerous world. In this world, it’s not just about experience and intelligence. It’s about preparation and understanding the audience, the rules, and the “core themes” of the case. Even executives who have spent years mastering the corporate world must, nonetheless, understand that this takes commitment, time, and effort.

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