Direct Examination Skills Camp
Professor Stephen D. Easton
Direct examination is the only aspect of trial where the attorney is dangerously dependent on another human begin. As experienced attorneys can attest, those other human beings — witnesses — can make a maddening array of mistakes.
They forget. They get nervous. They get frustrated. For an almost infinite variety of reasons, they get it wrong. And they are your witnesses!
In Direct Examination Skills Camp, Professor Steve Easton, a master trainer of trial attorneys, offers a unique program designed especially for law firms and corporate law departments that introduces young attorneys to the challenges of direct examination (and, if time permits, briefly exposes them to effective cross-examination skills).
Hands-on exercises feature a series of “witnesses” who take the stand for direct examination. The witnesses—fellow program participants—will rely upon their own memory of an event they witnessed earlier in their lives. (We would tell you which event, but that would take away the mystery and some of the fun.) This exercise recreates the actual dynamics and challenges of direct examination far more accurately than the usual role playing exercises when “witnesses” are asked to pretend that they observed a set of “facts” outlined on a sheet of paper.
Each participant will develop and try strategies for overcoming the challenges of imperfect witnesses. The witnesses won’t accurately remember. They will guess. They will reveal that they were not very observant when they witnessed the events in question. In short, they will make a mess of testifying. The participants will have to figure out what to do when this happens. It will be a challenge, but it will also be a lot of fun. We guarantee a laugh-as-you-learn environment.
Some attorneys will walk into this program without any previous experience conducting a direct examination. All of them will walk out with at least a bit of experience doing just that, plus insight gained from constructive feedback and by watching their colleagues and a proven trial advocacy superstar.
Program Outline & Schedule (3 hours)
[Part I: 90 minutes]
Introductory Discussion about Witness Questioning Options
- Leading Questions
- Open-Ended Questions
Direct Examination Exercise
- Calling Witnesses from the Audience
- Random Selection of Attorneys to Conduct Direct Examination
- Use of “Fact Statements” as Outlines of Testimony to Attempt to Elicit from the Witnesses
[15 minute break]
[Part II: 90 minutes]
Lessons to Be Learned
- The Temptation to Ask Leading Questions Is Almost Overwhelming
- “What Happened Next?” Can Be an Effective Question
- Witness Preparation Is Critical
- Your preparation is Just as Critical as Witness Preparation
- Be Selective, Because Every Question Is an Opportunity for the Witness to Get Something Wrong
- When a Witness Gets Something Wrong, You Must Decide How to React
- “Are you sure?” is a bad reaction
- For unimportant mistakes, the best reaction Is no reaction
- Sometimes “close enough” is indeed close enough
- For important, and clearly incorrect matters, the proper reaction is often a “Could it have been _______?” leading question
- Do NOT insist upon your language, unless it has legal significance or is otherwise important
- Do NOT over promise in your opening statement
- Avoid Asking for Verbatim Reports of Statements (Made Previously by the Witness or Others)
- If You Need Details from the Witness, Careful Advance Work Is Needed
- Avoid Asking “Why?”
- When Reacting to Problems, You Should Not Make Witnesses Even More Nervous
- Remember That You are Sending Messages to Jurors
Cross-Examination Exercise Lessons (if time permits)
- Cross-Examination Is Easier to Execute than Direct
- A Well Constructed Cross-Examination:
o Uses leading questions
o Uses “one fact at a time” questions
- With Good Witness Control, Cross (Unlike Direct) Can Be Used to Elicit:
o Verbatim recitations of previous statements
- Cross Only Works When You Do Substantial Pretrial Work
If you are not convinced that your understanding of the course topic has
improved after completion of any P.E.G.® seminar, we will refund your course tuition.