September/October 2013

Powerful Witness Preparation

Compliance & Ethics Professional
Daniel I. Small

Litigation Partner Dan Small co-authored a Compliance & Ethics Professional series titled "Powerful Witness Preparation."

In this series of articles, Mr. Small sets forth 10 time-tested rules to assist in the critical task of preparing witnesses.

The first rule for any witness, the rule from which all else flows, is to take your time.

READ: Rule 1: Take Your Time

The second rule for any witness is to always remember that you are making a record. Once words come out of your mouth, they are committed to the cold written page, under oath.

READ: Rule 2: Always Remember that You are Making a Record

The third rule for any witness is to always tell the truth. Lying, or stretching the truth, as a witness may not only be a crime. It’s foolish.

READ: Rule 3: The Pure and Simple Truth

The fourth rule for any witness is to always be relentlessly polite and relentlessly positive. This is not etiquette advice. It’s a survival technique.

READ: Rule 4: Be Relentlessly Polite

The fifth rule for any witness is to not answer a question you don't understand! To fully understand a question, the witness must apply three tests: Clarity, Comprehension, Comfort. Until a question has passed all three of these tests, the witness should not answer it!

READ: Rule 5: Don’t Answer a Question you don’t Understand!

The sixth rule for any witness is also the most deceptively difficult: If you don’t remember, say so. A witness can only testify to what he or she precisely remembers.

READ: Rule 6: If You Don’t Remember, Say So

The seventh rule for any witness is to never guess. In the unnatural world of a witness, guessing is an invitation to disaster.

READ: Rule 7: Don't Guess

The eighth rule for any witness is to never volunteer. "Question, pause, answer, stop" is the unnatural but essential rhythm of an effective witness.

READ: Rule 8: Don't Volunteer

The ninth rule for any witness is to be careful with documents. All witnesses need to be prepare to deal with documents — both to be careful with them and not to be afraid of them.

READ: Rule 9: Be Careful With Documents (part 1) Rule 9: Be Careful With Documents

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