Litigators and their client/witnesses are confronted with difficult situations during testimony, and it’s nice to have reliable ways out of those sticky situations.
During both courtroom testimony and in depositions, there are common traps where the examining attorney tries to make things difficult for the witness. I’ve identified 14 of these common traps and provide sound strategies for getting through them.
Consider the points below when advising and preparing your witnesses for trial and depositions. Today, we’re talking about:
Trapped by the “Yes or No” Question
When your client testifies, they are going to be asked many “yes or no” questions (where the forced response appears to be a “yes”) on cross-examination or during a deposition. This type of questioning puts them in a tough spot because whatever they are asked to respond “yes” to – is most likely something they’d rather say “no” to, and vice versa. They are put into a state of cognitive dissonance as they feel they must answer in a way that seems counter to their beliefs, foundations and truth.
How to Get Through It
First and foremost, the client/witness must want to appear reasonable in front of the jury/court. They want to send the message that they are interested in getting the “truth” out rather than being defense. If the attorney asking the “yes or no” question insists that they go ahead and answer simply “yes or no”, he looks like a jerk pushing his own agenda. He sends an impression that he is uninterested in the real truth – neither of which will help him in the jury’s or court’s eyes. It’s unlikely he’ll do this, but if he does, have your client go ahead and answer as he’s asked.