Witness Preparation

The prospect of giving testimony at deposition or trial causes great apprehension among many, whether they be laypersons or corporate executives. Very intelligent people are sometimes the most ineffective witnesses. Even the strongest case, overseen by the most skilled trial counsel, can be jeopardized if witnesses do not listen carefully, answer questions precisely and deliver the most optimal testimony they are capable of providing at deposition or trial.

To best prepare your officers and employees to provide deposition or trial testimony, whether in cases where Duane Morris is your trial counsel or where you have retained other trial counsel, Duane Morris attorneys offer a witness training program, which will teach your officers or employees the process of giving testimony. They will learn the structured question-and-answer format they should adhere to, the many rights they have and can invoke while testifying, and the fundamental tools they can use to maintain confidence and control. They will be given extensive opportunities to practice answering anticipated questions and receive feedback on both their verbal testimony as well as any nonverbal behavior that could impact videotaped testimony. They can receive further preparation and feedback through mock deposition questioning, court reporter on-the-spot transcripts and/or videotaping of their performance. We work with the primary trial attorney to prepare your witnesses on the substantive issues of the case, including their anticipated testimony regarding key facts and documents, and to identify and teach the witness the core themes of the case that the witness must understand and convey during his testimony. This collaboration enhances the efforts of existing trial counsel and allows them to better focus on the substantive aspects of their trial preparation.

Clients who have received this training, ranging from laypeople to executives, and even to other lawyers, have given extremely positive feedback. Some examples include:

  • Claims against a large hospital system seeking several hundred million dollars for alleged mismanagement, breach of contract and negligence arising from the acquisition of another health system required testimony from many key executives. Duane Morris lawyers prepared the witnesses and collaborated with local trial counsel on substantive issues. During mock questioning, one key executive testified in a manner that could have compromised the entire case. The transcript revealed his potentially devastating testimony. After completing the preparation process, all executives were well-prepared and confident in their depositions, and the case settled shortly afterward for a small fraction of the damages sought. Outside trial counsel embraced the collaboration in preparing the witnesses and were delighted with the process and the results.
  • Claims against a land-development company seeking millions of dollars for breach of contract required testimony from key executives. Duane Morris lawyers were requested by general counsel to provide training to key executives in the fundamentals of providing testimony and worked with general counsel and existing Duane Morris trial counsel to provide further extensive witness preparation to one of the top officers prior to his deposition. A favorable settlement was reached thereafter.
  • A client, who was extremely distraught and fearful of having his deposition taken and who lacked confidence in his ability to testify, was sued for breach of fiduciary duty as co-trustee of a multimillion-dollar trust. After just a few days of intensive training with Duane Morris attorneys, he became an extremely capable witness who was comfortable with giving the necessary testimony that led to settlement of the case. He expressed profound gratitude for the preparation he received.
  • Claims against an attorney client who was sued for interference with expectancy by displaced trust beneficiaries required extensive videotaped deposition testimony. He was extremely nervous about giving testimony. Duane Morris attorneys worked extensively with him, including videotaping his mock cross-examination and providing extensive feedback on his testimony and nonverbal behavior. He successfully completed two full days of deposition and provides a strong testimonial for the witness preparation he received.
  • A very elderly client who is legally blind and suffers from a physical condition that seriously impairs her concentration was sued for breach of an agreement to pay trustee compensation to the trustee of her living trust. She is unable to read any documents and was questioned extensively about agreements she had executed years before. After extensive preparation, she successfully completed two full days of deposition testimony, and the case settled on favorable terms during a mediation the next day.

For Additional Information

For more information, please contact Matthew A. Taylor or any of the lawyers listed on www.duanemorris.com.