Thursday, August 12, 2010

Manners Matter for Expert Witnesses

As an expert witness, your demeanor can be critical to how triers of fact view you, your report, and your testimony. Respect, politeness and composure can make a big difference in how the jury sees you. In "Effective Expert Preparation and Presentation," in The Advocate Magazine, May 2010, the Honorable Peter J. Polos (Ret.) writes that in addition to "Yes, sir/ma'am" and "Your Honor" that:

Experts should not let their tempers show no matter how bad the behavior of the questioning attorney. If the expert maintains his or her composure and the cross-examining attorney does not, it can only negatively impact the other side. Some of the the worst expert testimony I saw was due to argumentative or defensive testimony by the expert on cross-examination.

I will add from a marketing perpective that word gets around among attorneys. If you are known as composed and well-mannered, you are more likely to be referred and recommended to other attorneys.

(Unfortunately, this article is not available online but I highly recommend you read the entire article if possible. Judge Polos has valuable advice on several areas of expert witnessing)

1 comment: said...

It has surprised me how poor some attorneys are on cross. They seem to think they can intimidate you or somehow cloud your testimony.

But the article here is quite correct. In fact, when I get my first cross examination from opposing council and it is hostile or attacking me personally then internally I breathe a silent sigh of ‘imminent victory’.

I know he will hang himself with
the jury given time and I need not do anything but respond calmly and Cleary.

If there is a jury (rare really for me) I think you should respond to the jury not simply to opposing council. But my last sentence might acknowledge the opposing council as I look back and face him again.

The best attorneys on cross are far, far more subtle in their tactics and rarely show any negative emotions. But they may feign surprise. They will ask irrelevant questions and try to get you to say something that perhaps they can use and twist to impugn you. But just keep your answers very short as in “Yes or No or ‘I do not know’.

In the end it does not matter really what opposing council does if you are fully in control of yourself and let go of any personal feelings you might have in the case.