Legal pros breakout: Building your case, part 1
We’ve been focusing in on some things to consider about the materials anyone can use to build a winning presentation, but for the next two posts I want to pay some attention to legal professionals, since support materials are especially important in legal matters. Today, we’ll tackle deposition, hearing or other testimony, and on Thursday we’ll look at cases, statutes and legal opinions. (If you’re not a legal eagle, don’t wander off too far. On Tuesday (April 1), we’ll do a quick review of the takeaways of this part of the process.)
3 tips about citing testimony
Using deposition testimony needs little explanation, but there are a few basic guidelines for its use in an oral presentation. Here are three rules to live by:
- Pick out what portion of the testimony you need to communicate your message and nothing more or less. Selecting too much can dilute your point and may even backfire. Too little can make it difficult for your audience to understand or absorb your point, defeating your purpose either way. Think if it as surgery — you only want to take out what is essential and leave the rest.
- Try out the depo lines on someone unfamiliar with the case, to be certain you have the impact you wish to have. What may be crystal clear to you may not be so clear to an outsider.
- Be ethical in how you select the lines you want to use to make a specific point, whether in court or out. Taking any type of testimony out of context to serve your own purpose is not only against attorneys’ code of ethics, but it is the equivalent of yellow journalism. And it will usually bite you in the rear end eventually. There is no humiliation quite as acute as being called out on your misuse of a deposition quote or using a comment or phrase erroneously. If you have ever seen a judge do this, you’ll know what I’m talking about.I have seen attorneys try to pull it off both in legal briefs and in oral/motion arguments, and I have watched judges call attorneys on the carpet for it. It’s not pretty. Once, I watched a judge sanction an attorney, her client, and her entire law firm – requiring every attorney in the firm to take ethics courses – all for taking testimony out of context to make a legal argument (of course, they did it over and over again, hence the serious sanctions). Don’t even think about it.