Remember - Litigation is Adversarial

Remember that when you testify as a party or a witness, you are involved in an adversarial proceeding. All the principles of communication come into play. Your voice, enunciation, speaking ability, and body language all affect your credibility and the impact you have on the judge.


Witnesses and Parties are Judged by What they Wear.

Witnesses and parties are judged by what they wear. Women should dress neatly and modestly, avoiding extreme or controversial fashions such as big hats, too much jewelry, or revealing necklines. Men should dress neatly, wearing business or business casual attire. Your hair should be trimmed in an acceptable fashion. No jeans, shorts, t-shirts, tennis shoes or other inappropriate clothing should be worn.


Witnesses and parties are also judged by how they speak.

Witnesses and parties are also judged by how they speak. You should speak clearly and distinctly with words that a lay person can understand, using a normal tone of voice. Speak with conviction. Keep your hands away from your mouth. When a question is asked, look at the questioner. In the trial, look directly at the lawyer asking you questions or the jury as you answer (especially with really important questions).


Say, "I Do."

When you are sworn in, it makes a good impression to state clearly and emphatically, "I do." Always tell the truth and do not exaggerate. Do not avoid a question if you know the answer. Do not hesitate to correct any mistakes in your testimony but be sure that your correction is accurate and supportable.


Testify with Conviction

Avoid expressions like "I imagine," "I guess," "it might have happened," "in my opinion," or "to the best of my recollection." In other words, avoid using powerless "weasel" words unless you are asked to recall a specific fact and you are genuinely not sure. Also avoid phrases like "truthfully," "well, to tell the truth," "honestly," or "well, to be honest with you." Do not look to your lawyer for guidance in answering a question. Your lawyer cannot testify for you. You cast suspicion on your answers if you look to someone else for help in answering a question.


Don't be afraid to say, "I don't know."

If you do not know the answer to a question, there is nothing wrong in saying that you do not know. Likewise, if you do not remember, do not guess or speculate. If you do not understand a question, do not answer it. Answering a question that you do not understand might give erroneous information or damage your case. State that you do not understand the question. Do not let the opposing lawyer or the judge put words in your mouth; make sure you understand the question before you answer.


Don't Ramble or Think Out Loud

If you know the answer, answer the question fully and completely and then stop talking. Do not ramble or think out loud when answering. Do not volunteer information. Just answer the question asked.


It is appropriate to say, "I can't answer that question with a 'yes' or 'no.'

If the opposing lawyer insists on a yes-or-no answer but it is impossible to answer that way, do not do it. Politely tell him/her that the question cannot be answered yes or no. Under these circumstances your lawyer can usually help you.


Be the best you can be but be yourself.

Do not put on false airs. Most judges, like other people, are attracted to people who speak plainly, directly, and with sincerity. Do not be self-righteous. Do not speak in a condescending manner.


Stay serious...it's a serious matter.

Do not be argumentative. Do not be abrasive or hostile to the opposing lawyer. Answer his or her questions politely and courteously, the same way you would answer your lawyer's questions. Do not lose your temper; remain calm and composed. Do not joke or wisecrack. Do not dramatize or exaggerate your problems, difficulties in your life, or expenses. Never chew gum. Never smoke at an intermission. Keeping these principles in mind, you will do a good job in testifying at the trial.