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Witness Prep

Drawing on the insights of cognitive and counseling psychology, storytelling, and oral persuasion as well as our years of trial experience, Trialcraft specializes in turning problem witnesses into persuasive testifiers.

We help prepare both fact and expert witnesses for deposition and trial as well as meditation, arbitration presentations, and hearing testimony. (We can also help with executive presentations in high-stakes situations of crisis or conflict.)

Frequently, problem witnesses suffer from anxiety and fear, which leaves them with few internal resources to focus on the question. Most often, what drives anxiety and fear is feeling out of control. In structured prep sessions, we give witnesses tools to take appropriate control that allow them first to experience failure and then, with coaching and support, to achieve success and a feeling of mastery and comfort.

Tools for taking control can include:

  • Teaching the witness about trial, the rules of trial testimony, and techniques for dealing with typical cross traps
  • Helping the witness to understand the story and themes that need to be conveyed at trial and the role he or she plays in conveying them
  • Helping fact witnesses reframe their understanding of what happened
  • Helping witnesses acknowledge and release negative emotion
  • Developing “safe harbors” — truthful, simple, and sound answers for anticipated tough questions
  • Practice, practice, practice

In addition, prepping experts also often requires working with them to produce clear and persuasive slide decks and demonstratives that communicate at an appropriate level (not for a graduate seminar!).

Here are stories about some of our successful fact witness prep with professionals facing negligence claims — when licenses, careers, and reputations are at stake.

Click here for stories about our work with expert witnesses.

Click here for a recommended agenda for a prep session with an expert witness.

We can also help in ways you may not have considered, such as helping with witness assessment and selection, evaluation of opposition witnesses, and targeted development of cross-examination outlines for opposing witnesses. Click the Contact button below for more information.

The most effective way of dealing with “problem” witnesses is most often not to try to change the witness, but to craft your case story around your witness’s personality and demeanor. Don’t row against the current. Roll with the river.” 

— Sarah Murray (excerpt from Make Your “Problem” Witness Your Case Solution blog-post)


“We knew that the testimony of the defendant doctor was going to be the key to winning the case. The work you did to prepare her, getting over her feelings of guilt about the bad outcome and guilt about going against a patient made all the difference: I don’t think we would have won without you.”

John Hart, Partner, Hart Wagner


You did a better job on depo prep than I could have done because you were not concerned about interfering with the lawyer/client relationship. Your work was essential to the successful resolution of this case.” (Business Dispute)
— Steven Piser, Owner, Law Offices of Steven Piser


“The difference between our witnesses and theirs was like night and day. It made a huge difference with the jury.” (Trade Secrets case)

Carl McConnel, Partner, Hoge Fenton

Testimonials

  • When I first started working with you, I had already done maybe 100 jury trials. I was surprised at what I still had to learn about voir dire and jury selection. I’ve used the skills I learned on every case I’ve tried since, to great success — so the value went far beyond what Sarah brought to the cases on which we worked together.”

    Jeff R. Street, Partner
    Jeff R. Street, Partner Hodgkinson Street Mepham
  • “After our meeting, I felt like there was a Spock mind-meld and I had the sense that I knew what the objective was for voir dire and, with that sense, I could be successful. It’s funny I had the sense that the voir dire was a bit of a performance and taking stabs in the dark, but actually, it is much more concrete with clear objectives. Thanks again!”

    Glenda Zarbock, Partner
    Glenda Zarbock, Partner Hanson Bridgett, LLP
  • “Sarah's quick mastery of complicated facts and ability to tailor focus groups and mock trials to the issues in the case is unsurpassed.”

    Jim McGinnis, Partner
    Jim McGinnis, Partner Sheppard Mullin Richter & Hampton
  • “I worked with Sarah Murray on a complex civil antitrust matter.  Well in advance of trial, Sarah and her team were involved in the development of trial strategies, our client narrative, and witness preparation.  At trial, Sarah assisted with jury selection and ran a shadow jury. Sarah also developed questions for post-trial polling..."  READ MORE >

    Tad Allan, Partner
    Tad Allan, Partner O’Melveny
  • "... using your script, for the first time in my career I was able to successfully challenge for cause a juror sitting on the panel. In addition, the next day after the jury was empaneled, it was discovered that one of the jurors was under a broker/client relationship for the purchase of a home and sale of an existing home where the broker was the wife of one of the defense counsel. Both the defendant and the judge minimized the possibility of bias. Again, using your script, I was able to get her to say the magic words such that I didn’t even need to move to strike her — the judge determined it on his own. Thank you for your help. It was invaluable!"

    Daniel Glynn, Partner
    Daniel Glynn, Partner Greener Burke Shoemaker Oberrecht, P.A.
  • “... thank you for the excellent advice and guidance you have provided in a number of high exposure cases over the past several years. My clients and I have benefitted from an array of your services — ranging from mock trials to strategies for closing argument in a multi-month trial. What I have found uniquely beneficial is the depth of what you bring to a case and your unflinching commitment to calling it as you see it for the betterment of the case and its presentation. ..." READ MORE >

    Richard S. Linkert, Partner
    Richard S. Linkert, Partner Matheny Sears
  • “We knew that the testimony of the defendant doctor was going to be the key to winning the case. The work you did to prepare her, getting over her feelings of guilt about the bad outcome and guilt about going against a patient, made all the difference: I don’t think we would have won without you.”

    John Hart, Partner
    John Hart, Partner Hart Wagner
  • “...You did a better job on depo prep than I could have done because you were not concerned about interfering with the lawyer/client relationship. Your work was essential to the successful resolution of this case.”

    Steven Piser, Owner Law Offices of Steven Piser
  • “...The difference between our witnesses and theirs was like night and day. It made a huge difference with the jury.”

    Carl McConnell Hoge Fenton

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