Book Review: Preparing Witnesses: A Practical Guide for Lawyers and Their Clients, Third Edition

Vol. 3, No. 9

Matthew J. Evans is a partner with Paine, Tarwater, and Bickers, LLP, in Knoxville, Tennessee, where he focuses his practice on products liability and pharmaceutical defense litigation. He is a member of the TortSource editorial board and can be reached at


Whether you are about to take your first deposition or are a seasoned practitioner who has taken hundreds of depositions, this book is a must for every lawyer. The third edition of Daniel I. Small’s handbook on deposition preparation is a practical guide on deposition techniques. The author covers topics from the setting of a deposition to tools that will calm a nervous witness. Whether you are preparing a fact witness or an expert who has been deposed many times, this guide provides a step-by-step process to get the appropriate message out through testimony.

A critical first step is to know one’s environment and audience. The witness must understand the goals and parameters of the testimony. Emphasizing that testimony is not a normal conversation, Small dissects common mistakes that both unwary lawyers and witnesses may make.

The success of testimony taken during a deposition depends on the witness’s preparation. To be effective, the witness must “listen, listen, listen” and take time to understand what is being asked. Becoming upset is not acceptable; the best witness is one who is unfailingly polite. The author suggests that the witness be prepared to use techniques such as an option tree to become more comfortable or to better understand the questions being asked. The witness may employ a range of responses, from asking for clarification to simply saying “I do not recall.”

The book offers insightful advice for use in many situations, from a recorded interview to grand jury testimony or a trial. This guide includes practical steps for testifying as a fact witness, an expert witness, a medical doctor, or a criminal defendant. Finally, from an ethical standpoint, the author examines what a lawyer can and cannot do in preparing a witness for testimony.

Preparing Witnesses is an indispensable reference tool for practitioners who are faced with readying a witness to testify and shaping the goals of the testimony being sought.


To order Preparing Witnesses: A Practical Guide for Lawyers and Their Clients, Third Edition: Visit the ABA Web Store at and enter Preparing Witnesses in the store browser or call 1-800-285-2221.

Regular price: $89.95

Solo, Small Firm, and General Practice Division member price: $75.95



Originally published in TortSource, Volume 16, No 2 © 2014 by the American Bar Association. Reproduced with permission. All rights reserved. This information or any portion thereof may not be copied or disseminated in any form or by any means or stored in an electronic database or retrieval system without the express written consent of the American Bar Association.


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