This week I had the great pleasure of volunteering at the Advocates’ Society “Do a Trial”. Below is a list of helpful tips I learned:

  1. Stop talking like a lawyer. Remove legal jargon.
  2. You don’t want to sound like a lawyer. Members of the public don’t like lawyers.
  3. Outline the issues in the opening that you want the judge to answer. Give a roadmap of the evidence – who, what, where, when, why, and how. Only say facts with certainty if you know you can prove it.
  4. It is important to know what use you can make of a witness.
  5. When questioning a witness, know what points you want to make. Each point should be its own page of questions. Repeat phrases throughout. So it flows from one question to the next.
  6. Questions in direct should address – who, what, where, when, why, and how. Avoid talking about stuff that doesn’t matter.
  7. The direct examination should be a narrative.
  8. “Tell me more”. “I’d like to move towards X” – Can be great transitional statements.
  9. Cross-examination should be short statements put to the witness. Build to the conclusion.
  10. Facts have to be pursued. They have to be elicited through the witness.
  11. Reinforce the story through the witness.
  12. When you say phrases like “You concede”, the witnesses antennas go up. They know to fight you on that point.
  13. In closing, focus on the facts you want the judge to remember. And it should address what you want the judgment to say. Point out what you think the crucial things are. And link them to the issues in the case. Headline the issues. “Put the trial back on its rails”.
  14. When you object, remember to wait for the judge’s ruling.
  15. Don’t read something out loud if it is more than 6 words.

(Views expressed in this blog are my own and do not reflect the views of any organization.)