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Witness Preparation

Mind Matters’ Guide to Witness Preparation

A good witness can help seal your victory; a bad one can derail your case. But what’s the difference between the two? Witnesses do not need to be polished; but they do need to be able to effectively communicate their truth in an environment that is often hostile.

For many witnesses, being involved in litigation is like being thrust into a foreign world – things may look and sound familiar but the normal rules do not apply.

Witnesses need to learn that testifying, whether at deposition or trial, is not a normal conversation. Using the same communication habits one uses with colleagues, family, patients, friends or clients will likely get the witness in trouble. Furthermore, being deposed by a skilled adversarial attorney can be nerve-wracking for most people. When someone’s personal integrity or professionalism is under attack, the process becomes even more daunting.

Mind Matters consultants will help your witnesses understand the overall purpose of their testimony; learn how to listen to the adversarial questions; control the pacing of their responses; and provide accurate and concise responses.

Addressing the “Reptile Approach”

Plaintiff counsel often relies upon the “Reptile” approach when arguing cases alleging negligence, whether medical malpractice, personal injury or product liability. The reptile approach uses an implied threat of immediate danger to instill fear into jurors, hoping a “fight or flight” mentality will override the brain’s ability to process logic and reason.

Mind Matters consultants are skilled in teaching witnesses to identify reptilian-style questions, which often trap witnesses into providing simplistic yes-or-no answers to a very nuanced concept such as consumer or patient safety. When witnesses anticipate and can identify the questions, they are better able to provide an accurate answer that conveys the complexity of the situation.

“I have worked with George Hunter to select the jury on numerous trials. Twice I left jurors on the panel despite George’s expressed concerns. In both instances, I learned my lesson when those were the only two jurors who voted against my client. From witness preparation to case theme development through jury selection, George and Andrea offer clear and insightful help to trial lawyers.”REBECCA RINGERPartner, Corporate Treasurer 
Floyd, Pflueger & Ringer 
Seattle, WA

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