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Consider the ‘Message Effect’ of Inviting a Consultant to Help Your Witness

From Ken Broda-Bahm, Ph.D., writing for The Persuasive Litigator…

Arriving for the preparation meeting, the witness notices that there’s someone new in the room: a communications consultant. A non-lawyer visiting from out-of-town, the consultant is introduced by the lawyer as a specialist in legal communication and as someone who “is here to help us prepare for your testimony.” Over the course of the meeting, the consultant does just that.  In addition to familiarizing the witness with the process of trial or deposition testimony, the consultant provides an overview of main goals, conveys a clear list of “do’s and don’ts,” and warns about potential tricks and traps. In addition, the consultant also watches practice testimony and provides focused and concrete feedback on both the style, as well as the content, of the responses. All of that is helpful, but in addition to what the consultant does, the presence of the consultant alone also conveys a message.

Bringing in a witness consultant is not always necessary, but when it is, the person can provide both substantive and symbolic assistance. In addition to helping with the testimony’s process and product, the presence of a consultant also provides an additional value-add by sending a message to the potentially stressed and wary witness. And with just one possible exception, it is a positive message. I don’t know that ‘message effect’ has been researched, at least in a nonproprietary format, but based on my experience, I think that this ‘message effect’ of a preparation session can be every bit as powerful and important to the witness as the more concrete advice they receive. In this post, I’ll share a few of my thoughts on the symbolic takeaways to consider when deciding whether your witness could benefit from an outside consultant.

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