Powerful Witness Preparation
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.