Being A Good Witness

August 01, 2021 Paul Brennan
Being A Good Witness
Show Notes Transcript

Putting legs on the snake and other mistakes 

Brennans solicitors
Lawyers - Property, commercial, disputes, Wills and estates

Have you ever been called to be a witness in court?  It is quite nerve wracking.  One witness I cross-examined cried throughout. This made me look like the incisive, hectoring advocate that I had always wanted to be even though she started crying before I asked my first question. 

Whereas lawyers are paid by the hour and therefore have time to coax admissions from a witness, many judges like to rush (as if they had something better to do) and they can get really cross with witnesses who waste time.  In fact, they can get cross about almost anything. Therefore, rule one is try not to cross swords with the judge.  

One client of mine, the defendant in a criminal trial in answer to the question from the opposing lawyer, “You did this didn’t you?” answered, “Yes”.  Nevertheless, such admissions are very rare, or at least I have not seen them happen to the clients of any other lawyers.

Just like police interrogations on television, there will be two questioning lawyers—one nice and one nasty.  The idea is to give short ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answers to the nasty lawyer and full explanations to the nice lawyer.  Make sure you do this no matter how provocative or plain wrong the nasty questions may seem.  Arguing with the nasty lawyer can be fun—but not usually fun for you.

There is a Chinese expression about ‘putting legs on the snake’.  Some witnesses (defence and prosecution) decide to add a few things to their testimony to present a better case.  Technically, this is known as lying. Your truthful evidence will stand up by itself.  Like the snake, it moves perfectly well.  You will not be caught out by cross-examination if you tell the truth.  It does not need you to add legs. 

Of course, for some witnesses telling the truth is not an option.

© Paul Brennan 2018. All rights Reserved.

Extract from "The Art of War, Peace & Palaver: The Contentious Guide to Legal Disputes"