General Practice, Solo & Small Firm Division

Preparing Witnesses A Practical Guide for Lawyers and Their Clients

A young White House intern. A house guest. The recent explosion of investigations and litigation has multiplied the number and variety of people who have been dragged into a wide range of proceedings as witnesses. As a result, a large number of lay people who have never been witnesses, and many who do not want to be, have ventured onto the stand unprepared.

Dan Small, author of Preparing Witnesses and a frequent lecturer on this subject, states that witnesses need to be armed with a lot more information than the truth. "In an ideal world, any inquiry ought to be an open, shared search for the truth. In reality, we operate in an adversarial system, in which people tend to get too wrapped up in their own side," said Small.

He points out that witnesses are thrown into a foreign environment where all the other players are experienced, comfortable and prepared. Even some of the most experienced lawyers, however, sometimes fail to properly prepare their clients to testify. "The reality is that no one really teaches lawyers how to deal with clients, and certainly not how to teach clients something as difficult and foreign as the process of being a witness," he said.

Preparing Witnesses speaks to the contrasting perspectives of the lawyer and the witness and gives real-world examples and clearly planned exchanges, that illustrate the key points for witnesses to remember. "Dan Small is a respected trial lawyer with an extraordinary understanding of the difficulties of being a witness," said William Weld, former Massachusetts governor and former chief of the U.S. Department of Justice Criminal Division. "His book shows lawyers the right way to help clients through this complex and uncomfortable process. I recommend it to every practitioner."

Preparing Witnesses is published by the ABA’s General Practice, Solo and Small Firm Division (product code 515-0272, $59.95 for GP members, $69.95 for general).

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