What is Expert Witness Training?

Cassie L. Damewood

When a dispute between parties ends up in court, the defense and prosecution have the option to present expert witnesses to support their arguments. These witnesses are found in almost any profession or industry. They are not merely highly-regarded professionals in their respective career fields, but are actually trained to provide testimony capable of swaying the opinions of juries and judges. Expert witness training provides instruction to help these professionals convincingly present their opinions in court.

An expert witness offers expert advice in court.
An expert witness offers expert advice in court.

Regardless of the expert witness’ profession, the guidelines for preparing him to testify are fairly straightforward and consistent. During a trial, attorneys tend to subject expert witnesses to intense questioning about personal attributes, professional accomplishments and educational background. Expert witness training focuses first on maintaining composure in the face of such intense questioning. When grace under pressure is achieved, the training proceeds to finer points of presentation.

Expert witnesses are trained to anticipate as many questions as possible.
Expert witnesses are trained to anticipate as many questions as possible.

Expert witnesses are trained to anticipate as many questions as possible. This is often achieved during training with mock trials, much like a defendant is prepared by his attorney before giving testimony. The better an expert witness can satisfactorily answer questions and avoid becoming flustered, the more weight his testimony will have. Composure and self-assurance are important qualities for a good expert witness.

In addition to being able to state his qualifications without hesitation and cite relevant professional accomplishments, an expert witness is trained to anticipate as many twists and turns as possible. A case may be presented in a certain light before trial, but change drastically within minutes of opening remarks. Expert witness training teaches professionals to respond properly to questions, regardless of what variable may present themselves during trial.

Trainers encourage expert witness professionals to study precedents along with related cases. Witnesses are also often advised to read transcripts and news stories about the attorneys they will be facing. This helps them more easily spot their common tactics and anticipate their styles of questioning.

Clarity in testimony is stressed in expert witness training. Using simple language as opposed to industry jargon is encouraged to avoid alienating juries and judges. Trainers usually suggest tape recording mock interchanges to identify and avoid the use of technical or confusing terms.

Expert witness training teaches that cautious, honest and specific answers are most important in court testimony. Opposing counsel will likely seize any opportunity to discredit the expert witness, so careful, clear answers are of utmost importance. Expert witnesses are also trained to be patient, non-confrontational, upbeat and optimistic, as the trial process can be long and strenuous.

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