How To Prepare A Client For Trial or Deposition
Think back to your first trial or deposition. Chances are, this first trial or deposition was stressful and wrapped up in a neat little package of unknowns and questions. Now think of your client who is going to be in the court room or deposition suite for the first time.
Yes, those same nerves and fears that you had years ago are now manifesting in your client. For someone new to the legal system, just knowing that Pittsburgh court reporters, legal transcriptionists, lawyers, judges, and other legal experts will be listening intently and asking hard questions, can be very worrisome.
The onus is on you to properly prepare your client for trial or deposition, after all, the more comfortable and confident your client is – the better the legal experience for everyone.
We’ve put together our top recommendations on how to prepare your client for trial or deposition. We hope these help your client and act as a simple checklist for you to review before the trial or deposition.
Explain Everything About the Trial or Deposition
Never assume that your client is familiar with the legal system. Most people have very little experience with the court room or deposition suite. Make sure you clearly describe every aspect of the trial or deposition.
We suggest you start at the beginning and go through every single detail. This means all details including who will be in the room, the formalities to be used, the expected client behavior, who will do what when, and what everyone in the room is responsible for doing. The more the client knows about what to expect, the easier it is to feel at comfortable.
While it might seem tedious to you to go into such granular detail, remember that your client will be nervous, so the more you can do to make your client comfortable – the better. Just as you learned specific tips for managing stress in the workplace during your legal education, the same key coping cues and mechanisms can help your client when entering the court room or deposition suite for the first time.
Make sure you give your client ample opportunities to ask questions about what will happen before, during, and after the trial or deposition.
Practice, Practice, Practice
The outcome of the trial or deposition is heavily influenced by how well your client responds to and answers questions. This means you have to practice multiple questioning scenarios.
Explain to your client the approach the opposing lawyer will likely take and why this approach will be used. Use role-playing scenarios where you act as the opposition and ask your client questions. As well, make sure you practice all of the questions you plan to ask your client during the trial or deposition.
Depending on the legal situation, you might want to stage a mock trial or deposition complete with people posing as court reporters, lawyers, legal transcriptionists, and the judge. While this is purely practice, it can help your client better understand what the legal experience will be like.
Key Rules of Answering Questions
Often when people are nervous, two different scenarios occur: a very talkative client or a client who says nothing. You want to avoid both of these scenarios.
Remind your client that his or her answers will determine the direction of the trial or deposition, and because of this it’s important to remember some key rules of answering trial and deposition questions:
- Listen to the question. This means don’t interrupt or start answering before the question is fully asked.
- Make sure you understand the question. Remind the client that this means they shouldn’t guess at what they think the question means. If they don’t know what it means, ask for clarification.
- Take your time. Tell your client not to rush their answer. Instruct your client to take a deep breathe, think about the question, think about the answer, and then speak clearly and slowly.
- Always tell the truth. Even when it feels like the truth can hurt your client, your client needs to understand that telling a lie is worse. Make sure your client knows that telling the truth is the only option.
- Be clear and to-the-point. Remind your client to stick to answering the question that was asked. Don’t elaborate or provide extra details. Simply answer the question.
Managing Emotions During the Trial or Deposition
Most of the stress that comes with a trial or deposition comes with not really knowing how your client will respond on the day. All you can do is prepare your client to the best of your abilities. Remind your client that he or she can contact you at any time with questions about the trial or deposition.
Also tell your client that it’s perfectly normal to feel nervous on the day of the trial or deposition. Remind your client of the preparation you’ve done and that once you’re in the court room or deposition suite, the nerves will subside. Emotions are normal, nerves are normal – but both you and your client are ready and able to handle any questions that come up during the trial or deposition.