By James J. Mangraviti, Jr., Esq.
Superior performance by an expert witness during cross examination requires employing techniques which will help the expert maintain his credibility and, potentially, even strengthen his opinion. Here are twenty-five suggestions for expert witnesses:
1. Tell the truth.
2. Prepare thoroughly.
3. Prevent—don’t give counsel ammunition.
4. Be yourself, unless you’re a jerk.
5. Actively listen to each and every word in each question and answer the precise question asked, not the anticipated question.
6. Actively resist and correct counsel’s mischaracterizations.
7. Beware of set-up questions.
8. If asked about a document, demand to see the document.
9. Interrupt opposing counsel’s rhythm.
10. Don’t look to retaining counsel for help.
11. Leave the courtroom in an appropriate manner.
12. Be consistent at all times.
13. Do not be evasive.
14. Do not be afraid to say, “I don’t know” and do not speculate.
15. If you don’t understand the question, say so and do not be afraid to say, “I don’t recall.”
16. Concede some points.
17. Keep cool, don’t freeze.
18. Do not argue with counsel.
19. Pause and think before answering.
20. Dress appropriately.
21. Explain why the factual or theoretical basis of counsel’s question is mistaken.
22. Advocate for your opinion, not for the party that retained you.
23. Avoid response preambles that lessen credibility (such as “Honestly,” “To tell you the truth,” “I believe,” and “I think”).
24. Know your report and deposition cold.
25. Do not talk down to the jury.
James J. Mangraviti, Jr., Esq., has trained thousands of expert witnesses through seminars, conferences, corporate training, training for professional societies, and training for governmental agencies including the FBI, IRS, NYPD, Secret Service, and Department of Defense. He is also frequently called by experts, their employers, and retaining counsel to train and prepare individual expert witnesses for upcoming testimony. Mr. Mangraviti assists expert witnesses one-on-one with report writing, mentoring, and practice development. He is a former litigator who currently serves as Principal of the expert witness training company SEAK, Inc. (www.testifyingtraining.com). Mr. Mangraviti received his BA degree in mathematics summa cum laude from Boston College and his JD degree cum laude from Boston College Law School. Mr. Mangraviti has designed dozens of expert witness training programs and has personally taught experts in a group setting over 200 times since 1997. He is the co-author of thirty books, including:
How to Be an Effective Expert Witness at Deposition and Trial: The SEAK Guide to Testifying as an Expert Witness How to Be a Successful Expert Witness: SEAK’s A–Z Guide to Expert Witnessing How to Write an Expert Witness Report; How to Prepare Your Expert Witness for Deposition; The Biggest Mistakes Expert Witnesses Make and How to Avoid Them; and How to Market Your Expert Witness Practice: Evidence-Based Best Practices.
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