Wednesday, June 30, 2010

How to Translate the Expert’s Opinions into Expert Testimony

An expert I recently worked with was brilliant, no doubt. His credentials were superb, his authority on the matter in question, well, unquestioned. But his ability to communicate his expertise in a way any lay person (juror) could understand was awful. His deposition was larded with phrases such as: “The administration let other departments in the facility seize the initiative with a consequent fragmentation of the support for educational technologies offered to staff.”

Now to say to such an expert “speak in plain English” would seem a common sense approach to preparing him for Court testimony. The problem is, the expert thinks he is speaking in plain English, and that any idiot should easily be able to understand him.

Arguing the point with the expert is a waste of time. Instead, help your expert by asking a series of questions derived from his or her statement, such as: “What did the support for educational technologies consist of?” Hopefully, the answer will be something like “Classes or seminars teaching the technologies” and if it hasn’t been explained already, then ask something simple like “What are the educational technologies you refer to?” Disregard the expert’s condescending glare, since his “Orthopedic charting software 101” is information the jurors can relate to far more easily than “educational technologies.” It’s also something you can put up visually on a chart, with icons that personalize and make real “Orthopedic charting software.”

As tedious as it may feel, go through your expert’s key points in this manner as you prepare him or her for testimony. You’ll now have a much more effective direct, and have given your expert tools for being convincing on cross, which the expert otherwise would sorely lack.

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