Thursday, June 30, 2016

Tailor Your Approach to the Deponent Based on Choice, Not Habit

How you approach a witness in deposition has everything to do with how they are likely to respond.

If you adopt an aggressive style, you will probably be met with one of two possible responses: either the deponent will fight back, getting hostile and defensive, or the deponent will melt into confusion, “I don’t know-s,” and tears.

If you adopt a conciliatory, more friendly approach, you will usually elicit more narrative and thus more information.

If you adopt a neutral, fact-finding approach, you will probably receive informative responses, but not much elaboration or narrative.

Now, depending on your objective, one or the other of these approaches will be most appropriate. Sometimes you can choose to change approaches in mid-stream, such as starting out neutral, gently morphing into friendly, only to become more aggressive down the road.

What’s important is less the approach you choose, as that it be a choice. Too often, lawyers get in the habit of taking a deposition a certain way, and always do so. That’s great, but there may be a more effective approach available than your habitual one, given the nature of the witness and your objective.

Make your choice conscious, and you’ll be that much more successful.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Build Juror-Compelling Stories: Use the “Boy Meets Girl” Formula

Facts are boring. Stories are riveting. Facts put jurors to sleep. Stories keep them awake. Facts are essential to the case; stories are what make those facts persuasive. Each case has a story to tell no matter how apparently dry or complex the case may be.

At this point, plaintiff lawyers usually chortle with glee, they’re all about story! Except when the case is about eminent domain, or the intricacies of a business contract. They then grumble that business and contract cases lack the excitement of a story. For that matter, defense lawyers have the same complaint when it comes to business cases and more. Too often, defense lawyers complain that their side doesn't have a story to tell. This is false. A lawsuit is first about people, and it is the people side of a lawsuit that engages jurors.

A story doesn’t have to be long. In fact, long-winded stories are almost as frustrating to jurors as no story at all. A story encompasses your theme and gives the major points of the case. Preferably three points. That’s really all you need. Challenge yourself to finding your case’s story and then reducing it to the quintessential “Boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl.” A beginning, middle and end. Preferably with your client cast as the hero.

Short, sweet, and to the point; that’s effective Courtroom story-telling!