How to Testify in Court

An attorney doing research

Just like everything in life, it’s important to prepare if you are being asked to testify in Court. Being organized in the way you approach preparing to be questioned in front of a judge is important, because the information you provide will either strengthen your case or work against you. While you should always tell the truth, the way you present the truth can significantly impact the way the Court interprets your testimony.

I work closely with my clients to help them grasp the gravity of the situation, as well as to prepare them for how intense it can feel to be questioned in front of a judge and/or jury. Additionally, clients have to be prepared to be cross-examined by opposing counsel. It’s generally not a good idea to think that you can easily “wing it” in front of the judge. Most people become very nervous when they have to go on the stand, another reason why preparation is key. Despite the preparation, I have had clients testify in a way that wasn’t helpful. When I asked why, they said they got nervous and forgot about the preparation.

How to Prepare to Testify

When I’m preparing clients to testify, I create an outline that essentially gives an overview of the key issues that we want to address and that are likely to come up. The list includes the issues I want to address, and, furthermore, anticipates what the other side may ask. Once we have a list of the key issues, I bullet point our strongest arguments for those issues, and then address the best way to talk about them that will help strengthen our argument. I make it clear that the client should let me know if I’ve made any mistakes in my outline. We both want the testimony to be accurate.

I recommend to my clients that they keep all this information in mind as they get ready to testify. Sometimes it’s useful for them to memorize a sentence or two to help keep them on track, which is very helpful because getting off track during testimony can be harmful. However, I primarily want to make sure that “we’re on the same page”, e.g., they understand what I’m asking and I understand what his/her answer will be.

For example, I once worked with a client who was getting divorced. He had learned that his wife cheated on him for years with his best friend, and he was the one that initiated the divorce after he found out about her infidelity.

In this particular case, we were making the argument that he shouldn’t be responsible for a large debt she had racked up during their separation. Instead of focusing on the debt issue, he was so enflamed by her ongoing affair and betrayal that he kept wanting to bring it up to the judge, thinking it would garner sympathy.

I tried to explain to him that the judge doesn’t care about her affair. In Colorado, a no-fault divorce state, it doesn’t matter whether your spouse has an affair when determining how to divide up assets and debt. The Court is simply looking for the most fair and equitable way to make those divisions, and more information about an affair isn’t going to help his case. To the contrary, the Court might interpret his comments to mean that he was trying to punish his wife. It also may annoy and frustrate the Court because it will waste so much time.

My client really struggled to see past his emotions and stay level-headed. In the end, after we reviewed the outline of issues and arguments that I created, he did a decent job testifying in Court. It helped him to stay focused on the issue at hand. I’m fairly certain that if we hadn’t prepared in the way we did, he would have brought up her affair right away, which would have wasted time in the courtroom, likely irritated the judge, and been very unproductive.

Follow Your Attorney’s Advice

It can be hard for people to follow their attorney’s advice when it comes time to testify, especially because, no matter the reason, when someone ends up testifying in Court, it’s likely going to be an emotionally trying experience.

I organize and prepare clients for three reasons:

  1. Clients do not understand the system, and, therefore, what’s most important to highlight in their testimony,
  2. Clients are often highly emotional and that emotion can cloud rational judgement, and
  3. Clients have often never been in a situation where they need to testify, and it can be a very intense experience for them.

Preparation is also key to make sure that you’re on the same page as your attorney. I’ve seen attorneys show up in Court to question their witness, ask a question, and receive the exact wrong answer from their own client. It completely undercuts the reason for hiring an attorney in the first place.

Preparation increases the chance of success, it increases the chance that the client doesn’t unintentionally put his or her foot in his/her mouth, it helps things run more smoothly, and it takes less time. Our goal is always to be as efficient and effective as possible.

If you’re involved in a case that may require you to testify in Court in Colorado, call our office today at 303-449-1873 to schedule a complimentary consultation and find out if Barre Sakol is the right representative for your case.

Related Posts
  • Appearing for Court Remotely Read More
  • Divorce Long Distance: How Does it Work? Read More
  • Can Domestic Violence Charges be Dropped by the Victim? Read More