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The Litigation Consulting Report

How to Be a Great Expert Witness (Part 3)

Posted by Tony Klapper on Tue, Dec 13, 2016 @ 01:07 PM

expert-witness-testimony-guide-tips-free.jpgby Tony Klapper
Managing Director, Litigation Consulting
A2L Consulting

In our last post, we discussed why expert witnesses should rely on visual aids and litigation graphics in preparing their testimony.

Another key point for expert witnesses is that no matter how well credentialed a witness is, if the jury thinks he is a jackass or if he acts in a way that is inc
onsistent with jurors’ perception of how an expert should act, his testimony will be useless.

In every trial, the jury and the judge evaluate the credibility of every witness who testifies. If you have done something as a witness to lessen your credibility quotient, what you say will either be filtered through that lens or not even considered.

For example, some experts make the mistake of engaging opposing counsel in a pitched battle during cross-examination. While a feisty expert who resists answering “yes” or “no” questions might be seen by her attorney as a hero, the jury more likely sees an expert who is being difficult -- particularly when the “yes” and “no” questions are intuitively answerable. Similarly, an expert who regularly resorts to “I don’t recall” and “I don’t know” responses to questions that objectively seem knowable and recallable also undercuts her credibility. The same is true of an expert who fights over the meaning of words that have common meanings, or starts asking questions of the questioner.

When these things happen, the expert no longer is perceived as an expert; she is perceived as an advocate who is hiding some element of the truth. Even when the expert is not on the witness stand, how the expert interacts with court staff, opposing counsel, and even her own team can affect the expert’s perceived credibility. Being gracious and dignified can help; being cocky or surly can hurt.

For better or worse, jury trials can be show trials. While they certainly involve the search for truth, the way that truth is arrived at is often foreign and unnatural to the novice testifier. For example, unlike the laboratory or classroom, your evaluators at a jury trial are often less educated and less patient.

Additionally, unlike normal conversations, the questions asked and answered at a jury trial are orchestrated and controlled by arcane evidentiary and procedural rules. While being liked and respected is important in the “real world,” its impact is magnified dramatically in the courtroom, where snap decisions and judgments are made by people you have never met before and will likely never meet again. Not recognizing these facts can spell disaster.

Another key issue for the expert witness is to realize that she is going to be in very good company, intellectually, during the trial. She may see herself as the smartest person in the room on her subject matter. Is she? Perhaps. She needs to recognize that some of the best trial lawyers pride themselves in playing the game of one-upmanship and outmaneuvering and outworking the expert.

Those lawyers have some very real advantages. First, they are smart. They may not be as educated as you in the field of your expertise, but they are quick studies and careful readers. The best lawyers take great pride in securing the winning admission from the other side’s experts -- albeit with a smile on their face. Many a war story has been told of a cross-examination that brought a testifying expert to tears or so frazzled the expert that he caved on points that he did not need to cave on. Sometimes aggressive lawyering on cross-examination can backfire, and the expert is perceived as a victim and the lawyer as a bully. But sometimes the jury (like the throngs at a gladiator fight in ancient Rome) waits with anticipation for at least some blood to be drawn.

Second, in cases with significant economic exposure or opportunity, opposing counsel will likely be well-financed. They will have a team of associates, and possibly even science consultants, available to look for ways to outsmart you. They will have scoured all of your writings and the scientific literature you have relied upon. They might have better recall about footnote 29 or the limitations expressed by another author about the regression analysis in one of the studies upon which you rely. And they will be looking for statements and opinions that are flat-out inconsistent (or appear inconsistent) with the statements and positions you presented in your expert report and direct examination

Third, opposing counsel will know the case backwards and forwards. As an expert, you invariably must rely on your understanding of at least some of the facts in order to apply those facts to whatever scientific methodology you employ -- though sometimes you are simply asked to assume certain facts as true. Either way, opposing counsel will work hard to exploit any of your knowledge gaps with what they perceive to be the “real facts.”

The simple solution is to remember that you really are THE expert. If you believe in your opinions and have prepared properly for your testimony, you will do just fine.

expert witness trial testimony ebook a2l ims

Tags: Trial Consulting, Juries, Expert Witness, Witness Preparation, Cross Examination

[New and Free E-Book] Expert Witnesses - Direct and Cross Examination

Posted by Ken Lopez on Wed, Nov 9, 2016 @ 11:48 AM

A2L-IMS-EXPERT-WITNESS-TESTIMONY-TALL.jpgby Ken Lopez
Founder/CEO
A2L Consulting

We at A2L are launching a new e-book this month. This time, we are publishing the book jointly with IMS ExpertServices, one of the nation’s premier providers of experts and consultants for top law firms and Fortune 500 corporations.

The title of the new book is Expert Trial Testimony: Direct and Cross-Examination. The book answers every question you might have thought of in connection with expert testimony at trial in U.S. courts, and it does so in a clear, conversational manner. Plus, it’s a free download.

As more and more money is at stake in civil trials, and as the subject matter grows more and more complex and difficult for many jurors to understand without assistance, the value and importance of expert witnesses has grown dramatically.

The difference between an effective, well-prepared, convincing expert witness and one who does not come across well to a jury can often be the difference between winning and losing a trial where hundreds of millions, or billions, of dollars are at stake.

The book is directed at experts themselves and gives dozens of do’s and don’ts that will make any expert’s testimony effective and convincing at a trial. It’s not only experts who will benefit from reading this book but also trial attorneys, trial technicians, in-house counsel, and anyone who wants to understand the best ways to put on expert testimony.

The book addresses the typical expert witness as follows:

You have read hundreds, if not thousands, of articles in your field. You likely have an advanced degree that touches on the area about which you have been asked to testify. You may have taught classes on the relevant subject matter at a university. You may have presented your thoughts and research at conferences attended by your peers. You are smart. You are well-credentialed. But are you prepared to testify in a court of law? Do you know what you have to do to be just as effective on the witness stand as you are at the podium?

Among the key topics in the book are:

  • How an expert can explain complex scientific topics in language that a juror can understand without “dumbing down” her testimony
  • Why pictures, schematics and visuals of all sorts are as important to an expert witness’s testimony as the words he uses
  • How an expert should prepare for the toughest questions on cross-examination, including questions that the expert might view as unfair
  • How to deal with a “yes or no” question and avoid the pitfalls that such a question usually brings with it
  • How an expert should use body language to help, not detract from, the quality of her testimony

We think this book will be invaluable to expert witnesses, lawyers, trial techs, in-house counsel, and others. Please download it here.

 

Tags: Litigation Graphics, Jury Consulting, Mock Trial, Demonstrative Evidence, Juries, Jury Consultants, Expert Witness, Persuasive Graphics, Visual Persuasion, Judges, Cross Examination, Persuasion, ebook

Hurry Up and Wait - Using Silence in Depositions, Voir Dire and More

Posted by Laurie Kuslansky on Fri, Apr 4, 2014 @ 09:00 AM

 

silence deposition questions voir direLaurie R. Kuslansky, Ph.D.
Managing Director, Jury & Trial Consulting
A2L Consulting

When are you most likely to get the best information? 

When you say nothing at all.

We frequently notice that — just as a deponent, as an afterthought, is about to drop good information — he or she is interrupted by an unaware, impatient questioner jumping to a new question.  It is in that magic moment when one is pensive and a truth is about to be revealed that somebody invariably steps on it and loses the moment. However, thinking (e.g., remembering facts and engaging in cognitive processing of the information, synthesizing it, reflecting on it and drawing inferences) takes time. 

Some refer to the critical pause after asking a question or after getting a response as “Golden Silence” (Miller Heiman Conceptual Selling®)[1], described as:

“… a technique where the salesperson asks a question and then allows three or four seconds of silence afterwards. Through its extensive research and experience, Miller Heiman learned that when faced with a Golden Silence, buyers will often open up and share an insight that helps both the buyer and the seller get a better grasp on the buyer's needs. Often, this leads to another question (based on the insight) followed by more silence and more insights. In this manner, salespeople are able to guide a meaningful, in-depth, and on-topic discussion that leads to a win-win where the customer's actual needs are met through a solution, not just through a product.”[2]

Others (particularly in educational research) call it “wait-time.” [3] Increasing the typical wait time of 1 second to 3-7 seconds (after asking a question or after receiving an answer before speaking again) has significant benefits: the length of responses can increase between 300% and 700% or more![4] In addition, instead of short phrases that rarely involve explanations of any complexity, pausing for 3 seconds or more tends to yield more elaborate, detailed responses.

So, the next time you ask a question or get an answer, the best thing you can do may very well be … nothing. Let silence do the heavy lifting.

Other articles related to best practices around voir dire, depositions and legal communications techniques from A2L include:

complex civil litigation ebook free


[2] Ibid.

[3] Rowe, Mary Budd. "Wait Time: Slowing Down May Be a Way of Speeding Up." AMERICAN EDUCATOR 11 (Spring 1987): 38-43, 47. EJ 351 827 at http://www.sagepub.com/eis2study/articles/Budd%20Rowe.pdf

[4] Ibid.

 

 

Tags: Voir Dire, Jury Selection, Psychology, Expert Witness, Depositions, Cross Examination

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Authors

KenLopez resized 152

Ken Lopez founded A2L Consulting in 1995. The firm has since worked with litigators from all major law firms on more than 10,000 cases with over $2 trillion cumulatively at stake.  The A2L team is comprised of psychologists, jury consultants, trial consultants, litigation consultants, attorneys and information designers who provide jury consulting, litigation graphics and trial technology.  Ken Lopez can be reached at lopez@A2LC.com.


tony-klapper-headshot-500x500.jpg 

Tony Klapper joined A2L Consulting after accumulating 20 years of litigation experience while a partner at both Reed Smith and Kirkland & Ellis. Today, he is the Managing Director of Litigation Consulting and General Counsel for A2L Consulting. Tony has significant litigation experience in products liability, toxic tort, employment, financial services, government contract, insurance, and other commercial disputes.  In those matters, he has almost always been the point person for demonstrative evidence and narrative development on his trial teams. Tony can be reached at klapper@a2lc.com.


dr laurie kuslansky jury consultant a2l consulting







Laurie R. Kuslansky, Ph.D., Managing Director, Trial & Jury Consulting, has conducted over 400 mock trials in more than 1,000 litigation engagements over the past 20 years. Dr. Kuslansky's goal is to provide the highest level of personalized client service possible whether one's need involves a mock trial, witness preparation, jury selection or a mock exercise not involving a jury. Dr. Kuslansky can be reached at kuslansky@A2LC.com.

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