How to Be a Witness in Trial Court
Testifying at trial is intimidating, particularly the first time you take the stand. As long as you’re prepared, you have nothing to fear. Most states forbid lawyers in small claims court, so your case will probably be heard in a regular trial court. Although the general procedures of a trial court are the same as small claims court, more formalities must be observed in trial court.
As with small claims court, you should dress for success, and use body language that projects confidence. Your professional appearance and demeanor improve the odds that the judge will believe your testimony. In a typical business trial, conservative dress and muted colors such as navy blue or charcoal grey work well. In order to establish your position as a credit executive, you should wear a suit. Other witnesses who have lesser roles within your company may be able to dress more casually, but you don’t have that luxury. You should also be cautious to not wear too much bling.
Some additional tips we recommend to ensure your experience as a trial witness goes smoothly include:
- Talking to your attorneys before trial can help prepare you for court. They may even be willing to walk you through the testimony itself.
- Listen carefully! During a trial, while a defense witness is testifying, it’s helpful to take notes describing your thoughts and observations.
- Answering questions in court. Some of the questions your attorney may ask may seem unnecessary, but they’re foundation questions that the attorney must ask in order to introduce evidence or to make a particular point to the court.
- Offering documents into evidence. When introducing evidence, your attorney must follow requirements set forth in court rules and the rules of evidence. Your lawyer may ask you questions intended to lay down a foundation (a legally sufficient basis) for the admission of an exhibit into evidence.
- Handling cross examination. On cross-examination, an attorney wants to lead you into making admissions that are harmful to your case, to embarrass you, to show that you’re ignorant, incompetent, biased, not to be trusted, and so on.
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