Attorney, Cordell & Cordell
Attorneys can tell when a witness is prepared. Those are the toughest witnesses to crack, and most of the time they do not crack.
Previously, I advised you on the necessary trial preparation you need to do one month before trial and one day before trial. In this article, I’ll walk you through what you need to do one week before your trial.
Rehearse, rehearse, and rehearse.
Meet with your attorney for a dress rehearsal of your testimony. If you can rehearse outside the comfort of your attorney’s office, do it. You might reserve a room in a shared office space, use another attorney’s office or better yet, go to the courthouse.
Have your attorney ask you typical trial questions for a direct examination and the dreaded cross-examination. Now, your attorney cannot tell you what to say, but your attorney should advise you as to the speed, sincerity and relevance of the things you do say.
For example, rather than say “I want custody because these kids are half mine” (which is a legitimate feeling), your attorney might suggest that you say “I want custody of my children because they are my children and I have done X, Y and Z with them.”
Details matter. And the details come through a dress rehearsal.
At home, study the way you speak. Practice speaking slowly and keeping eye contact with your listener. Imagine the listener is the judge or attorney.
Most people speak quickly and in a slightly higher-pitch when testifying, which suggests worrying, fearfulness or lying. Practice speaking slowly and in your normal tone.
Review your notes often to commit pertinent facts to memory. These include dates, names of family members and, for cases involving children, medical histories, education histories and names of friends, teachers, doctors and babysitters.
Nothing destroys a witness’ credibility quite like forgetting his child’s pediatrician’s name in a Jack Nicholson-Tom Cruise moment straight out of “A Few Good Men.” You should review these facts throughout your case, but no less than one week before trial.
Jennifer M. Paine is an Associate Attorney in the Detroit, Michigan office of Cordell & Cordell. She is licensed to practice in Michigan, and has been admitted pro hac vice in Illinois, Ohio, and the United States Court of Federal Claims.
Ms. Paine received her BA in English and Mathematics from Albion College and graduated Summa Cum Laude. She received her Juris Doctorate from MSU College of Law and graduated Summa Cum Laude.