Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Hostile Opposing Counsel - Part 2

Continuing the input from expert witnesses on dealing with hostile opposing counsel in deposition:

I have been doing expert witness work for 25 years. Attorneys basically have two tactics. They can either attack your opinions or attack you personally. If the whole deposition is about attacking you personally, you know you have won! If you the attorney could attack your objective opinions, he would certainly do so. If he refrains from attacking your objective opinions, he knows you are completely accurate. Therefore, since he can't directly dispute your opinions, he can only attempt to discredit you and therefore, by implication, your opinions.

If the attorney spends most of the deposition attacking how much money you make as an expert witness or how you testify more for one side or the other, or is extremely obnoxious and aggressive, just remain cool and calm. You have already won the case and that attorney knows it all too well. His only hope is to get you crack and say or do something stupid. Like you said, these tactics are primarily in depositions where they can't be "seen". These kinds of tactics are rarely used in front of a jury because the jury would see them for what they are. In addition, while you can't always depend on it, judges may limit some of these theatrics as your client attorney may object to the witness being abused.


Take a look at Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, Rule (d)(3)(A) regarding Motion to
Terminate or Limit deposition by witness.


This all brings to mind a deposition I had in which the opposing counsel made a very big deal of the fact I had not brought exactly some financial data on my expert practice he had requested (I had brought something equivalent and in fact more responsive to his concerns). He then proceeded to politely but persistently ask me the same question over and over, in different ways but always the same question. My answer was critical to his case, and I answered politely but firmly each time. He never got what he wanted, and politely made sure I knew he was not happy about this. I thought he was a bit of a jerk.

Several months later he called me and asked me to work with him on a case. He introduced me to his partners as an expert who "is really good". It was only then that I realized he had been "trying me on for size" in that first deposition. Since that time he and his partners have become regular clients. I have come to understand he is in fact a pretty nice guy, and a well respected attorney. Learning how lawyers play the game is one of the many things I enjoy about my expert practice.


Ask him why he is high-fiving and being insulting off camera (or whatever) and get it in the record.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Hostile Opposing Counsel - Part 1

In our newsletter, we've been discussing how expert witnesses can handle hostile opposing counsel during depositions. The stories and advice keep coming and are too good not to share. So from the experts who've been there:

I once had an oppposing attorney scream at me 2 inches from my face and spittle peppered my head. I then said "let the record show the opposing attorney," and then described his antics. He was a perfect gentleman for the rest of the deposition.


I think the best defense with these types of attorneys is to maintain one's composure.


I think if opposing counsel gets too far out of line, your attorney should step in and say something. That's happened to me only once; my attorney "suggested" that I be treated as a professional or the deposition would come to an end, or he would call the judge. Opposing counsel apologized and backed off.


Here are some strategies that work well for me. I request that the attorney either repeat a question and ask for clarification (I totally understand the question) which slows the process and helps keep the opposing counseling in check and off point. Another option for me is to start speaking slower, take extra pauses and lower my speaking voice or count to five before answering a question -- sometimes silence is a great leveler. All of this is done as I smile and answer the question in my own way and in my own time. At other times I state that I need to take a break.


"Why are you harrassing me?" in order to get this into the record. Then, the attorney denies this, but he changes his manner and it puts him off his plan of attack.

Check back for part 2.