If you are a lawyer anxious over how your expert witness will perform on the witness stand, you can always instruct the expert to don a bow tie: It's just the ticket for that "nerdy nod of credibility."
That's just one of the scintillating nuggets of advice for turning a ho-hum expert into a "great" witness in the latest issue of The Jury Expert, a publication of the American Society of Trial Consultants. Other advice from Doug Carner of Forensic Protection includes instructing the expert to be confident and relaxed and not to be "the hero."
Reading the column made me thankful that the attorneys I work with have more common sense than to focus on the superficial. I would be less than thrilled to have an attorney client making wardrobe recommendations (bow tie or not) or ordering me to just relax.
I don't mean to sound cynical about trial consultants. I'm sure there is a valid place for them in helping prepare witnesses -- especially novitiates -- for trial. But in my opinion, substance is far more important than style. And that's very hard to teach in a simple advice column. So attorneys are better off choosing the right expert in the first place than scrambling to prepare their witness via last-minute wardrobe tips.
Critically, a good expert witness must have legitimate expertise in the topic at hand. Without legitimate expertise, it is hard to be calm and confident. He or she should also be thorough, taking the time to research the issues and understand the specific case facts. And, above all, the witness should convey honesty and humility.
An attorney who has to tell the witness not to play "the hero" has already made a big mistake. That narcissistic expert should have been avoided in the first place. As a colleague once remarked, it helps us to remain humble if we remember that we are just one piece of evidence, like a maggot on a dead body.
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