Professional investigators need to know how to be a good witness if they are ever called to testify in a court proceeding. Testifying is a skill that can improve with knowledge and practice. Therefore, private detectives should work to improve their witness skills before being called upon to prove them in court.
What can you do to be a good witness? What types of case work might entail acting as a witness in a legal proceeding? Do you have anxiety about testifying in front of people? What can you do about it? These are all important questions to answer if you are working as a professional detective or related trade expert.
This post provides some helpful guidance for investigators who need to act as witnesses in a legal forum.
How to Be a Good Witness in Court
As a professional investigator, you may be asked to provide expert testimony in any number of legal proceedings, including trials. Testifying in a legal proceeding may be an inherent part of your job and your responsibility to your client. You may also be asked or summoned to testify in any related legal proceeding, including by opposing counsel or any governmental authority.
Let’s look at what you can do to be the best witness possible in these circumstances:
Always dress neatly and appropriately. Present a good appearance at all times, including when you are not in the courtroom or even in the court building.
Always consider your speech carefully. Every word you say will be noted in official records, so never talk quickly or carelessly. Choose words that will accurately describe your exact meaning without ambiguity.
Never get emotional in a legal forum. Always present yourself as calm and professional, even if the testimony is heated or if you are provoked in some way.
Always keep your client’s legal objectives in mind and do your very best not to act in any way against their interests. However, it is crucial to always be honest and ethical when representing yourself in a legal forum.
How to Speak Publicly
We regularly receive emails from investigators who are nervous about public speaking, especially in crowded situations, such as important trials. Besides the above guidance, we offer some situation-specific help that can make things easier for you to speak in public:
Remember that you are there as an expert and a professional. The legal proceeding does not directly involve you. Do not react to the proceeding emotionally, but maintain a sense of calm at all times.
Remember that your words are important to everyone listening. Do not place this burden of responsibility on yourself personally, but instead transfer it to the cognitive side of you that is only concerned with business. This is your job. Do not make it about you emotionally.
Always breathe when testifying. Take your time. Stay relaxed. Keep your mind focused and do not get caught up in any negative or counterproductive self-dialogs. It might help to maintain eye contact with the person you are speaking to in the proceeding to keep you focused and on track.
How to Be a Good Witness and Get Paid
Acting as an expert witness in a legal proceeding is a great way to make money. If you are a good investigator and have already done your job properly, simply talking about your case work should be the easiest part of the assignment. Remember, the hard work is already done…
If you are a good speaker and can develop a knack for providing compelling testimony, your reputation will grow. You will become the “go-to” person for your particular area of expertise and will find clients more easily in the future.
Just keep in mind that testifying in court or in any legal forum can be learned and developed as a private investigation skill. You should work to improve this aspect of your service offerings so that you can do a great job for your clients and as a true representation of yourself as a professional.