Winning Trial Advocacy Tips is one of the best blogs for trial lawyers in the entire blogosphere. Elliott Wilcox repeatedly delivers useful, timely information of interest to those of us who try cases. I encourage you to add it to your regular reading list.
Today, I share with you his post of tips to keep your witnesses happy and gain their cooperation. He is, as usual, dead-on. Ignore his advice at your peril.
1. Tell your witness EXACTLY where to go. I normally try cases in our downtown courthouse, and I’ve been to all of the outlying courthouses for miscellaneous hearings. But I’d never been to this courthouse before. The courthouse was located at the jail complex, and I didn’t know which building I was supposed to go to. I had to poke my way around a little bit before I was able to find the right building. Once I finally found the right building, I had no idea which floor I was supposed to go to, and I had no idea which of the two courtrooms I was needed in. Even when I found the right courtroom (which was behind bulletproof glass) I wasn’t sure if I was supposed to wait outside with everyone else or if I was expected to ask a guard to let me inside.
Even if you think your witness knows their way around the courthouse, don’t assume that they know where to go. Tell them not only where to go, but where they should park. If there is more than one building, tell them which one they’ll go to. Tell them how to navigate through the metal detectors. Once they’re inside the building, which floor do they need to find? Which room? Should they stay outside the courtroom, or should they walk inside? Remove all doubt from their heads — tell them exactly where to go.